The government in the 19th Century in its quest to assimilate Aboriginals into the much-desired Euro-Canadian culture established the Canadian residential schools. After a failed first attempt by the catholic missionaries in New France in the early 1800s, the government employed a different tactic, which encompassed forcefully abducting the aboriginals into forced assimilation in 1876 (Milloy & John 176). Majority of the children were taken away from the comfort of their homes and care of their loved ones without permission of the families. In as much as the government wanted to have a one language speaking nation, the approach was uncalled for and in every way against diverse people rights. Moreover, in the so-called ‘schools,’ many crimes characterized these facilities without the knowledge of the outside world whereby finally leading to their abolishment in 1996. Contrary to the names, the residential schools did not impart the expected knowledge towards the children empowerment but instead they acted as cells for isolation and torture where children ended up barred from talking or conversing in their native languages besides transformed into servants. Therefore, it is a shame that the government participated in the infringement of the rights and freedom of its citizen in the name ensuring civilization through conducting of injustices against humanity.
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During the time of their inception, the residential schools were government sponsored besides run by the then churches whereby any person could think that they were to assimilate and impart real life skills and knowledge into the children. Since, in any venture or activity that the state’s regime embarks on jointly with the people or masses tend to believe it including even some who are well off parting with some resources to support the course. In reality, the schools were to serve as centers for wiping out some cultures in what was termed as cultural genocide by Justice Sinclair. The traditions of the First nation, Inuit and Metis were forcefully discarded by every means available, which included separation from their families to break down of communication patterns to writing correspondents to the families back home in French or English and instead compelled to adopt languages which they did not understand (Milloy 221). Students from the same family were not allowed to communicate and sometimes even see each other. Hence, this was to ensure the culture or any other aspect that seemed as if they were then sharing could not continue in their settings. In addition, the trainers were also impatient with the young children in regards to adhering to the strict rules of the institutions and therefore severe punishment was the norm. The way of life ended up being distorted to an extent children had to adjust to problems back at home for they could not fulfill their roles as necessitated. From dressing which was inadequate, as they had to put up with baggy clothes while during winter, most of them had no winter clothes suitable during weather conditions. Thus resulting to the loss of many the young soles whom mostly ended up succumbing to pneumonia and tuberculosis owing to the congestion in the facilities.
Secondly, the health effects of the facilities went too far beyond the imaginable or conceivable. The tender children ambushed and abducted from their families without notice underwent a lot of psychological trauma. The unseen wounds inflicted by the government by this act on the victims prompted many end up experiencing mental health problems in the population ranging from acute stress disorders, adjustment disorders to post traumatic stress disorders. Furthermore, the correctional methods employed in the facilities caused serious physical injuries to the already emotionally disturbed kids. In most cases, physical injuries besides torture were due to subjecting these minors to labor that could not by any standards commensurate with what their system could bear. Hard labor given to the so-called students who did not conform to the requirements only ended up causing mental fatigue due to tirelessly working in the afternoons in the fields. Conversely, many girls became victims of rape in the perceived to be Christian based residential schools instead of be a heaven for refuge more so to minors who do not at all have a place meant for solace (Grant 266). Some of the teachers meant to act as the guardians sexually abused them and no action taken against the perpetrators of such offences owing to their influential position, which encompassed sometimes issuing of threats minors not to report. To worsen the situation, the federal government approved the carrying out of nutritional experiment more so on non-consenting young children without permission from their parents. Hence, this deprived them the vital nutrients in the diet to evaluate on the detrimental effects of absence of such nutrients between 1940 and 1950.
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A saddening fact is that numerous lives were lost in the educational facilities without any action by the government to intercede in its obligation of protecting each citizen as the law dictate. Since the establishment of the first center in 1876 to 1920, approximately 6,000 deaths were already in records but they soon stopped keeping the records for unknown reasons. Probably, this was intentional in order to shun any future inquiries in regards to this extent of injustice subjected to minors who were barely at the age one could withstand that kind of torture. Some say that the number was higher than the figures portrayed; most likely approximately three times the one reported by the respective authorities. Survivors of the ordeal mentioned that there were many deaths especially in the fields to the extent they were full of scattered bones of humans. Owing to the malnutrition and overcrowding in the schools, the children were susceptible to various epidemics with most of them succumbing to smallpox and Spanish flu in 1918 and 1919 (Grant 278). Canada to date in the annals of history scholars allege to be one of the country that has a big record of missing persons and unrecorded deaths arising from the ‘death schools’ during that period.
Noteworthy, the economic and political power of the Aboriginals diminished significantly, because the historical injustices practiced by the government on them led to large population of them being prisoners and many of their children in foster homes. Hence, to some extent acted as a way of depopulating them to figures that they could not at all wage any significant resistance or groupings in opposing any governments force or efforts meant to compel them into complying. Majority of the aboriginals are poor in Canada compared to the non-aboriginals (Fontaine 376). They lag in terms of economic empowerment, which is attributable to the discriminating approach taken century ago on this population.
In conclusion, it is evident that the government through its church sponsored residential schools wrecked more havoc onto the people than doing good no matter how good the intent was. Numerous social injustices took place under the close watch of the government. The emotional torture and physical abuse inflicted on this people led to an outcry leading to the acknowledgement by the government which issued an apology to the parties affected and a compensation of 19.6 million $ (Florence 437). In spite of the compensation, psychoeducation and psychological therapy ought to have been provided to the individuals together with bridging the economic gap between these two groups of populations, the aboriginals and non- aboriginals, to ensure equity.
- Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Toronto : James Lorimer & Company Ltd, 2015. Print.
- Florence, Melanie. Residential Schools: The Devastating Impact on Canada’s Indigenous Peoples and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Findings and Calls for Action. Toronto: James Lorimer & Company Ltd., Publishers, 2016. Print.
- Fontaine, Theodore. Broken Circle: The Dark Legacy of Indian Residential Schools : a Memoir. Surrey, B.C.: Heritage House, 2010. Print.
- Grant, Agnes. No End of Grief: Indian Residential Schools in Canada. Winnipeg: Pemmican Pub, 1996. Print.
- Milloy, John S. A National Crime: The Canadian Government and the Residential School System, 1879-1986. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999. Print