In recent times, it seems to be an increasingly widespread concern for residential schools in Canada. The residential schools have undoubtedly posed long-lasting and intergenerational impacts on people living at that time. This piece of writing will thoroughly provide to the readers with the concept of residential schools, the living conditions, as well as the long term impact of such system.
To begin with, residential schools in Canada have a profound historical story that receives many concerns from people living in all ages. According to CBC News, residential schools were built with the presumption of European settlers in Canada that aboriginal culture was incapable of adapting to modern society; hence, assimilating children into mainstream Canadian society by adopting Christianity and speaking English of French would lead them to modernization. In other words, the system was employed to destroy the rich cultures and traditions of indigenous people and to suppress their history by the colonial government. These schools were generally operated by certain churches and religious organisations and managed and financed by the government as a key angle of colonialism (Miller). The two primary objectives of residential school was to expel and separate children from their homes, families, and culture and to assimilate them into the dominant culture – the Canadian society. These goals were found on the presumption aboriginal cultures and spiritual beliefs were secondary and unequal (Stephen). It is widely acknowledged that the subjects of residential schools in Canada were mainly children who were at six or even younger. They were not entitled to return home, or if so, it took very little period. At the age of 14, they were sent back to their home. According to Parks Canada, it was from the 17th century to the late 1990s that the residential schools for indigenous children existed in Canada. The formal system of residential schools for inborn children was built up and extended all through Canada during the 19th century and the 20th century. To be more specific, it was recorded that there were over 130 residential schools operated in Canada between 1831 and 1996 and approximate 80 residential schools in 1931 (Miller). The Union of Ontario Indians claimed that the first residential school in Canada was the Mohawk Institute in Brantford, Ontario in 1831 and the last one close was the Gordon Residential School in Punnichy, Saskatchewan, closed in 1996.
In addition, living conditions at residential schools in Canada also a hot issue for those who are interested. It was estimated that over 150,000 children attended residential schools and approximately 2,800 children died at these places (The Royal Canadian Geographical Society). The schools provided a myriad of disadvantages for children. First of all, unlike the general population at the public school systems, students at residential schools are offered with inferior education, often up to grade five. Instead of pursuing academic knowledge, students are trained to concentrate on practical skills. Specifically, boys were instructed to do carpentry, tinsmithing, and farming, whereas girls were prepared with doing laundry, sewing, cooking, and cleaning (Eric). These unpaid and involuntary work played the main lesson in the majority of residential schools. Due to spending little time in class, students were not able to pursue higher education with their limited knowledge. Secondly, children are abused in sexual and physical way at a regular period of time. Abusement was considered as punishment for pupils who had violated the regulations. Take the case of Calibou as an example, she was forced to eat rotten vegetables and was called a dog during her times at Guy Hill institution. Additionally, she was prohibited to speak her native language which was Cree and practice native traditions (The Guardian). The brutality of violence undoubtedly poses a negative influence on health problems, including physical health and mental health, of students. In fact, many of them were diagnosed with infectious disease, increased rates of chronic, depression, addictive behaviours, substance misuse, and even suicidal behaviours (Wilk, et al.). Last but not least, children were frequently assaulted, raped or harassed by teachers and other pupils contributing to their unforgettable memory later. The poor living conditions at residential schools led to the alarming death rates and sequelae of students. Even though some inspectors and officials were aware of the abuses and tragedies at that time, there were silence and lack of support in preventing these inhumane practices (Eric).
Last but not least, it is true that residential schools in Canada have created long term impacts. As the last residential school closed in 1996, many of our grandparents, parents, teachers of Aboriginal cultures todays are residential school survivors, becoming the real evidence for the influence of such systems. Firstly, there is little doubt that even not attending residential schools, many of the descendants of residential school graduates bear the same burden as their parents. In fact, not only did they get transmitted personal trauma but also the loss in Aboriginal culture. A considerable amount of Aboriginal culture, such as language, tradition, is not passed down to the next generation. Another remarkable effect of residential school is the foundation of domestic abuse and violence against Aboriginal women and children. As a matter of fact, since many adults living in residential schools times lacked parenting skills and suffered abuse from such systems. They tried to exert violence in their family, resulting in the cycle of abuse and dysfunction over generations. The last consequences of residential schools is the psychological injuries of Aboriginal children. According to Eric, many of Aboriginal children felt that they do not belong in either world, meaning the Aboriginal and the dominant society. Children in this group inevitably receive discrimination from both societies. This leads to the difficulties in obtaining education and skills and fully developing themselves.
In conclusion, due to above analysis of the concept, the living conditions, and the long term impact of residential schools, it is conclusive that residential schools in Canada is a harsh regime system in which students suffer both long term physical and mental consequences. Government and officials from all over the world should avoid this mistake and be careful in giving their decisions.