Residential schools can be considered an act of cultural genocide. Aboriginal children were taken from their homes, and forced to learn new customs in an unorthodox abusive manner. This was a cruel and sad time in Canadian history. Canadian Prime Minster Stephan Harper apologized about this issue in 2008, recognizing that aboriginal children were subjected to physical, emotional, and sexual abuse at the hands of the church and government, causing long term consequences still effecting some people today. Also recognizing that this type of assimilation was wrong, and has no place in Canada.
On Canadian soil resided one hundred and thirty-two federally supported residential schools. Aboriginal children were alienated from their families, culture, traditions, and morals and were forced to adapt to canadian society’s standards. The children weren’t allowed to speak their native languages, or practice native traditions. They were forced to accept and practice christianity, and dress according to the schools standards. The initial idea of the former government was to give the aboriginal children a formal education, and re-civilize them. However, the church and government had the notion that they could breed out native blood and customs through these children. The favored outcome being the complete assimilation of the native culture. Unfortunately, the last residential school was closed a mere sixteen years ago in 1996. Today, 90 000 survivors in their thirties and older are trying to understand, heal, and move beyond this devastating experience.
The children were subject to excessive physical, mental and sometimes sexual abuse. The children were battered into conforming to the schools ideals. Ripped away from their families and community, they endure unjust maltreatment. Separated from their siblings and thrown into a place of unfamiliarity and poor living standards. The children were given inadequate clothing, and limited food. The children were subjected to public humiliation, racism, imprisonment in closets or cages, segregation of sexes, burning, scalding, and sometimes beaten until unconscious or were serious injury was inflicted. This abuse resulted in many aboriginals feeling a loss of identity and after leaving the schools many were unable to reintegrate with their native communities. The aboriginal children attending these schools were brutally beaten for being unable to recite a pray, or not being able to spell an english word, or speaking in their native language. The government wanted to recivilize native’s but in reality who were the real savages.
One of the most detrimental effects of residential schools was the loss of heritage that these children had to undergo. When children returned home, they found it hard to communicate with their parents because they were quickly forgetting their native languages. They no longer knew how to live in natives communities, and felt outcasted. Enduring a residential school also traumatized many of the children, and parents. The parents because their children were forcefully taken from them by a stranger. The children because they were taken away from their homes forced to endure the unjust hardships of residential schools. This caused much emotional harm to the mental stability of many first nation people. Many had trouble conforming to authority, and often had a lot of trouble with the law. Many also turned to alcohol, drugs, or food as a remedy for the pain and suffering they endured. The Harper government acknowledged the moral unjustness of residential schools and offered a payout to an estimated 80 000 former students. The government paid out 1.9 billion dollars to first nation people. Many former students explain that they don’t think that compensation can ever heal the wounds of all the pain and suffering they’ve gone through.
The government and religious orders should have never exposed Aboriginal children to a formal education as assimilation does not equate education. Residential schools caused first nation people to lose more than they ever gained. The government should have never forced these children to adapt to canadian society standards, with the goal of civilizing the first nation youth. Nor, should the government and church have put these children in an abusive environment, and subjected them to physical, emotional, and sexual harm. Residential schools did much more harm than good to canadian society, and for over 80,000 former students has created a deep wound that can never be healed.
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