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Yesterday, (1996) an important event happened when the last residential school closed. They finally shut down the residential schools that the government of Canada believed would be good for educating aboriginal children in Canada. About 150,000 First Nation, Inuit and Métis children were taken from their communities and forced to attend the schools. The government of Canada developed a policy that aboriginal kids be taught at the government-funded industrial schools, called residential schools. The government thought children were easier to mold than adults, so the boarding school was the best way to help them for life in mainstream society.
Attendance at residential schools was for children in the communities that didn’t have day schools. Agents were paid by the government for each native child who attended school. Initially, about 1,100 students attended 69 schools all over Canada. There were a total of around 130 schools in every territory and province but Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick did not approve of the schools. Residential schools were made with the assumption that the aboriginal people were unable to adapt to a modernizing society. It was once said that native kids could be successful if they became a part of mainstream Canadian society by adopting Christianity and speaking English and French.
Over the years, students lived in unhealthy conditions and were exposed to physical and emotional abuse. Some children had been victims of sexual abuse as well. Students that stayed at residential schools didn’t have opportunities to see examples of normal family life. Most were in school for 10 or 12 months, away from their parents. When students went back to their reserve, they often felt like they didn’t belong. They had no skills to help their parents out, and started to feel ashamed of their native heritage. Assimilation was devastating for all of the people who were subjected to years of abuse. so let’s hope in the near future that the government and Prime Minister don’t repeat the past and can move on to the present.
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