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Indigenous Learning - Education / Residential Schools

List of Residential Schools in Canada

Indigenous Education in Canada - Chronology

1831 – Mohawk Institute Residential School opens in Brantford, Ontario.  In 1831, the school began to function as a residential school for boys, and started taking in girls in 1834. It became the longest operated residential school closing in 1970. (operated for 139 years)

1845-1847Bagot Commission Report  Vol 1 & 2,  Vol 3  (named for Sir Charles Bagot, Governor General of British North America) proposed federally run Indian residential schools.  The report recommended training Aboriginal students in schools specializing in manual labour and industries such as agriculture.  It also proposed that the separation of children from their parents would be the best way to achieve assimilation.
(NSRC 5th floor, E 96.5 C33 Section 1-2 1845, Section 3 1847)

1847 – Egerton Ryerson (1803-1882), Chief Superintendent of Education in Upper Canada, drafts a report at the request of the assistant superintendent general of Indian Affairs known as the Ryerson Report.  (NSRC 5th floor, LA 418 O5R87 1847)He took a progressive stand advocating for the separation of Church and State within education, however he held a different position in relation to education for Aboriginal children.  For Aboriginal students he drafted a Ryerson Industrial Schools Report (NSRC 5th floor, E 96.5 S655 1898) which supports the creation of industrial schools.  Throughout history, these schools have been called manual labour schools, industrial schools, boarding schools, and residential schools.

1857 – The Act to Encourage the Gradual Civilization of Indian Tribes in this Province, and to Amend the Laws Relating to Indians (commonly known as the Gradual Civilization Act) was a bill passed by the 5th Parliament of the Province of Canada in 1857. (NSRC 5th floor, KE 7704.58 1857)   The Act was passed to aggressively assimilate Aboriginal populations.  It included automatic enfranchisement (loss of status) for any Aboriginal male over 21 who could speak, read, and write in either English or French; was of good moral character; and was free from debt. By the application of this act, Indian and Métis males would lose all of their legal rights, as well as any land claims and would become British subjects.

1867 – Constitution Act (British North American Act) makes Aboriginal Education a federal responsibility.  Federal authority for matters dealing with “Indians, and lands reserved for the Indians,” including education, stems from section 91(24) of the Constitution Act, 1867.  Constitutional authority to make laws in relation to education for all non-Aboriginal Canadians rests with provincial governments.

1879 – Nicholas Flood Davin submitted his report to the Minister of the Interior, and Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald. It was titled Report on Industrial Schools for Indians and Half-Breeds and became known as The Davin Report. (NSRC 5th floor, E 96.5 D25 1879). It recommended industrial schools be established as the most effective means of “civilizing” the Aboriginal population.  Davin references Ryerson’s report of 1847 as supporting industrial schools for Aboriginal children.  When Davin submitted his report, four residential schools called manual labour schools at the time, already existed in Ontario – The Mohawk Institute (1831), Mount Elgin Industrial Institute (1851), Shingwauk Indian Residential School (1873), and Wikwemikong Indian Residential School  (1840 day school, 1879 residential school).

1883 – The Department of Indian Affairs policy on First Nations education focused on residential schools as the primary vehicle for civilization and assimilation. Through these schools, First Nations children were to be educated in the same manner and on the same subjects as non-Aboriginal children: reading, writing, arithmetic, languages, while more coercive practices would be used to force them to abandon their traditional languages, dress, religion and lifestyle.

1892 – The Canadian Government and Christian Churches enter into a formal agreement for religious institutions to run the schools. This included the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of England (Anglican), the Methodist United Church, and the Presbyterian Church.

1907 – Dr Peter Bryce, Medical Inspector for the Department of Indian Affairs writes the Bryce Report (NSRC 5th floor, E 96.5 B99 1922). The report detailed the appalling health conditions in the residential schools.  The report was re-released in 1922 as The Story of a National Crime, Being an Appeal for Justice to the Indians of Canada.

1920 –Duncan Campbell Scott, deputy superintendent of the Department of Indian Affairs from 1913 to 1932, was influential in revising the Indian Act, to make attendance at residential school compulsory for all Aboriginal children aged 7-15 years.  This became law in Canada and children were forcibly taken from their families by priests, Indian agents, and police officers. He publically admits in his essay Indian Affairs 1867-1912 that "it is quite within the mark to say that fifty percent of the children who passed through these (IR) schools did not live to benefit from the education which they had received therein".  (NSRC 5th floor, E92 S47 1914)

1931 – The federal government and churches operated over 130 residential, industrial, and boarding schools across Canada. The number of active schools peaked in 1931 at 80.

1939 - Since Confederation in 1867, the Inuit people fell outside the responsibility of the Department of Indian Affairs. Based on the wording of Section 91 (24) of the British North America Act which stipulates federal responsibility for "Indians" and no other Aboriginal group, the Inuit are considered regular citizens. In an effort to seek compensation for assistance provided to Inuit living within the province, Québec argues that the Inuit should be a federal responsibility just as are Status Indians. In 1939, the Supreme Court of Canada rules that, for administrative purposes, the Inuit should be considered as "Indians" and be the responsibility of the federal government.

1948 – There were 72 residential schools with 9,368 students.

1950’s–1970’s – Integration policies recognized the failure of the residential school system and by the late 1950s began the placement of Aboriginal children into mainstream public schools.  This process happened in different areas of the country at different times.

1950s – Standard curriculum is introduced; the half day labour program is officially ended.

1960 – Aboriginal People gain the right to vote and became citizens of Canada.  In March 1960, Prime Minister John Diefenbaker pushed the voting rights legislation through Parliament and it came into effect July 1 of that year.  First Nations people were given a conditional right to vote status at the time of Confederation in 1867, but to do so, they had to give up their treaty rights and Indian status.

1966-1967 – In 1964, the Minister of the Department of Citizenship and Immigration commissioned a study to review the situation of the Indians in Canada with a view to understanding the difficulties they faced in overcoming some pressing problems.  The study was led by H.B. Hawthorn (Harry Bertram Hawthorn) and the report is known as the Hawthorn Report.  (NSRC 5th floor, E 78 C2A3 v.2) The published title is A Survey of the Contemporary Indians of Canada:  Economic, Political, Educational Needs and Policies.  The first part of the Hawthorn Report (1966) concerns the conditions and programs that are primarily economic, political and administrative in nature. Part Two of the report (1967) deals with the issues of education and the internal organizations of reserves.  Hawthorn concluded that Aboriginal peoples were Canada’s most disadvantaged and marginalized population.  He attributed this situation to years of failed government policy, particularly the residential school system. Hawthorn recommended that Aboriginal peoples be provided with the opportunities and resources to choose their own lifestyles, whether within reserve communities or elsewhere. He also advocated ending all forced assimilation programs, especially the residential school program.

1969 – Partnership between government and churches is formally ended and federal government takes full control of the schools.  The partnership began in 1892 and lasted for 77 years.

1979 – There were 12 residential schools remaining with an enrollment of 1,189 students

1986 – The United Church of Canada formally apologizes to Canada’s First Nations people.

1993 – The Anglican Church apologizes to Canada’s First Nations people.

1994 – The Presbyterian Church apologizes to Canada’s First Nations people.

1996 – Gordon Indian Residential School (Punnichy, Saskatchewan) is the last residential school to close.

1996 – The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples Report is released and recommends that a public inquiry is held to investigate and document the abuses in Residential Schools.

1998 - The Aboriginal Healing Foundation was established as part of Canada's response to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.

2007 - Implementation of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRSSA) began on September 19, 2007.  The agreement, which was implemented under court supervision, was the largest class-action settlement in Canadian history.

2008 - The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) was established by Order-in-Council in June 2008.  Their mission is to reveal to Canadians the complex truth about the history and ongoing legacy of residential school system and to guide a process of truth and healing.

2008 – Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered an historic formal apology on behalf of the Government of Canada (June 11, 2008) to former students of Indian Residential Schools and sought forgiveness for the students’ suffering and for the damaging impact the schools had on Aboriginal culture, heritage and language.

2009 - Pope Benedict of the Catholic Church apologizes for the physical and sexual abuse and "deplorable" conduct at Catholic church-run Canadian residential schools.