How did the residential school affect Canada’s First Nations people?

In Canadian history, there are a lot of interesting events happened in the past. Some of them are events that are proudly presented such as Battle of Vimy Ridge, Canadian peace keeper and others. On the other hand, there are also a lot of tragedy events that happened in the past. Indian Act is one of an important act which occurred in 1876 and it led to establishment of Indian residential school, and the Indian residential school is a tragedy event that happened in Canada. It was the school that most of First Nation people will never forget. What was the reason? What did the residential school do with those First Nation people?

“The Indian residential schools of Canada were a network of ‘residential’ (boarding) schools for Aboriginal peoples of Canada (First Nations [Indians], Metis, and Inuit) funded by the Canadian government’s Department of Indian Affairs, and administered by Christian churches, most notably the Catholic Church in Canada and the Anglican Church of Canada.” (“Canadian residential school system,”1) The main purpose of residential school was to assist in the assimilation of Aboriginal people into Canadian society. A lot of Aboriginal children attended the school from the mid-1800s until early 1970s. By the late 1960s, there were 10,000 aboriginal students that attended 60 schools. However, these children had to be separated from their family in order to attend the school. Even though some family lived close to the school, the students were not allowed to live outside the school because the government afraid that the students might take bad influence from their parents and community, and when they attend the school, they would not become civilized as Christian setting as the school expected.

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In addition, the residential school system was consistently under-funded and often poorly managed. School buildings were badly constructed, and students were often poorly fed. The house was overcrowded, so that a lot of students had diseases and died. Moreover, they were ignored by government and the public. Physical, emotional and sexual abuse remained constant until the schools were finally abandoned in the 1980s. The last residential school closed outside Regina in 1996. (“Some Key Facts about Canada’s Residential School History,”2000)

The First nation people had been suffered for a long time from many conditions such as suspicious, authority and abuse. The residential schools changed a lot of people’s life in Canada, and Aboriginal people played an important role in the past of Canada. Some of the experiences in the past from Aboriginal people were made as a movie such as “The Black Robe” by Bruce Beresford in 1991. In this movie, it provided information about the culture of a Huron village in Quebec. Not just the movies that being made, but also a lot of books were written about the Aboriginal people. For the books, there are many famous articles that can be found publicly and they are about the residential school.

Moreover, a lot of the narrators are students who lived there. In this case, the opinion comes directly from a first-hand experience, so it is very emotional and descriptive. One of the First Nation people, Pauline Dempsey, disclosed her feeling toward the residential school. There are three distinct things I abhor and feel strongly about as far as residential schools are concerned. These are: 1) to be taken away from our parents who were denied the natural process of parenthood. 2) to be punished for speaking our native God-given language, and 3) being stripped of our individuality. We were all expected to act alike, and not given the opportunity to excel in anything as individuals.

Pauline Dempsey lived in the residential school from the time she was eight years old. Her real home where her parents lived was just two miles away. However, she was not allowed to live with them. In July and August, people were all allowed to go home and be with their parents during the summer holidays. Pauline enjoyed summer holidays with her family. After the holiday was over, it was hard for her to get back to the institutional life in residential school. There was strict discipline at the school. For example, there were certain times of the day when students had to adhere to the rules of the bell: to get up in the morning, to go to chapel, to go to eat, to go to the classroom, to signify playtime and recess, and to go to bed. In addition, each of the students had chores to do. Everyone had to clean the school. When the principal came to the school, the students had to know how to set a table properly with damask table cloths. When the students did not follow the rules, they would be punished brutally. Some of the penalties led students in the school to dead. There were also a lot of health problems in residential schools due to the large number of students. (2011, 2)

Another example from people, who lived in the school, is an article from Beverley Jacobs. She is a member of the National President of the Native Women’s Association of Canada which is a Canada’s National Aboriginal Organizations. She made a statement about Aboriginal women in Canada. She thanked the Prime Minister for his Statement of Apology: “I have to also give you credit for standing up and starting to tell the truth. I did not see any other governments before today come forward and apologize, so I do thank you for that. But in return, the Native Women’s Association wants respect.” She explained that in the earlier generation, her grandmother was sexually and physically abused in residential school just because she was a Mohawk woman. Her grandmother could not pass on her traditions to her mother and her siblings. However, Beverley was lucky that she was raised in a community where knowledge and ceremonies have been passed on by all mothers. People should know more about human rights violations that occurred against Aboriginal children, especially towards Aboriginal women. Everyone should know that the negative issues of the poverty, alcoholism, drug addiction and the cycle of violence can be traced back to Canada’s policies.

The violations had impacted her language, her culture and her spirituality. It should not have taken until the year 2008 for most Canadians to be educated about the residential school system. I have just one last thing to say. To all of the leaders of the Liberals, the Bloc and NDP, thank you as well. I thank you for your words. But it is now about our responsibilities today. Words must turn into action. The decisions that we make today will affect seven generations from now. My ancestors did the same seven generations ago. While they tried hard to fight against you, they knew what was happening. They knew what was coming. We have had so much impact from colonization and that is what we are dealing with today. Women have taken the brunt of it all. In the end it must be about more than what happened in the residential schools. For women, the truth telling must continue. It was a time when residential school survivors were just beginning to open up and to disclose the various forms of abuses. (2008, 223)

In the end, government authorities were willing to admit that the grand experiment had failed, and that Aboriginal Canadians should be allowed local control of their own education. ”The residential school system was at best a tragic failure and at worst a national crime.” A journalist who talked about the failure of the residential school: Morse Bradford W. said. (12.1).In 1998, the federal government apologized and established a $350- million fund to pay for traditional healing circles and to cover the cost of counseling for victims. B.C. Supreme Court judge became the first in Canada to award a victim of residential school abuse financial compensation. After that, The Anglican national church and Ottawa were ordered to pay $200,000 to a man who was sexually abused by a male dormitory worker. (Former Ontario Residential-School Students Allege Attempted Genocide, 9) From a large amount of money that the government gave back to the First Nation, it can be seen that the government tried to take responsibility for everything even though all the damage from residential schools is uncompensated.

In conclusion, from all the examples, it provides that the residential school is a defective education system in Canada. It caused a lot of negative results which are uncompensated for the country, so it is a good thing that finally the school was eliminated from Canada. All the Aboriginal people can have their own rights, and their traditions do not need to be replaced by the Europeans anymore. This is a great lesson for the government to think more carefully about education system before they plan to do something.

Work Cited

“Canadian residential school system,” Wikipedia: 1-2.2013. Print. Dempsey, Pauline. “My Life in an Indian Residential School.” Alberta History 59.2 (2011): 22. Print. “Former Ontario Residential-School Students Allege Attempted Genocide: Final Edition.” Whitehorse Star: 9. 2000. Print. Jacobs, Beverley. “Response to Canada’s Apology to Residential School Survivors.” Canadian Woman Studies 26.3-4 (2008): 223. Print. Morse, Bradford W. “Government Responses to the Indian Residential Schools Settlement in Canada: Implications for Australia.” Australian Indigenous Law Review 12.1 (2008): 41-59. Print. “Some Key Facts about Canada’s Residential School History.”Canadian Press NewsWire 2000. Print.

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How did the residential school affect Canada’s First Nations people?. (2016, Nov 02). Retrieved from