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Aboriginal-Canadians have an excessive history of mistreatment and discrimination in Canada. In modern society, this is looked upon as a sad chapter in Canadian history. The many effects of Indian Residential School Systems revealed racism among the Canadian government.
Indian Residential Schools had two objectives; to separate aboriginal children from the influence of their, and culture, and instill the ways of the dominant Euro-Canadian culture. This was based off of the belief that the Aboriginal culture was savage and inferior, or popularly described as to, “Kill the Indian in the child”. Approximately 150,000 children, or 30% of Aboriginal children, we forcibly put under the policy. Children were prohibited to speak their cultural languages or practice their Aboriginal customs. The children had a standard, uniformal appearance of cut hair and European clothes. They were required to participate in church festivals and rituals. Students who refused to comply were often punished with physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.
Poor funding of Indian Residential Schools led to inadequate facilities (e.g. lack of heat and ventilation), a poor quality of education (e.g. unqualified teachers), and the neglect of the children’s basic needs of survival (e.g. lack of clothing, food). Overcrowding in schools was a common mishap and often led to disease and/or death. Estimates of the death rate in Indian Residential Schools is around fifty percent. Despite so, there a few former students have spoken positively about their experiences at residential schools, however this take on the schools are overshadowed.
The Indian Residential School policy has a damaging and lasting effect on the Aboriginal community. It is revealed that the abuse underwent is like to the high prevalence of mental illness (e.g. post-traumatic stress disorder and depression), alcoholism, substance abuse, and suicide among former students. The cultural stigma created by Indian Residential Schools created an intergenerational effect. This includes personal trauma, loss of Indigenous language and culture, and lack of a nurturing family life. The isolation of children from a family created not only a cultural and language gap, but an incapacity for adequate parenting skills, and perpetuated the cycle of abuse. The high incidence of domestic violence among Aboriginal families results in many unhealthy familial relationships. Aboriginal children believe they do not belong on either side, as they are not truly Aboriginal, neither they are part of the dominant society. The former students faced non-acceptance and discrimination from both societies.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued an apology on behalf of all Canadians to former students of residential schools. “Today we recognize that this policy of assimilation was wrong, has caused great harm, and has no place in our country”. He stated on June 11, 2008. “The Government of Canada sincerely apologizes and asks the forgiveness of the Aboriginal people of this country for failing them so profoundly”. The goal of the apology was to acknowledge responsibility for the effects of the Indian Residential Schools and to lay the foundation for healing the relationship between Aboriginals and Canadians. (Canada. Parliament of Canada 2008).
The implementation of the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement began on September 19th, 2007. The agreement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which seeks to educate all Canadians on the Indian Residential School System. In addition to the commission, reconciliation was strived for with financial compensation such as the Aboriginal Healing Foundation being provided $350 million, churches funding projects and services to unite families and heal trauma, and educational initiatives such as converting the former Mohawk Institute Residential School into an exhibition.
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