For years, the aboriginal people have been discriminated in Canada. They were perceived as inferior because their native traditions were very different from the white Canadian traditions. In the 19th century, the Canadian government created mandatory residential schools to assimilate the Natives into English speaking and Christian Canadians. The schools were church-run and government funded. They did so thinking their traditions would diminish or be completely eliminated in a few generations. However, the residential schools affected the Natives and the Government negatively, despite it’s original objectives.
The residential schools did not provide the proper education for the Natives. Also, many of them were living under poor condition and got abused which lead to different types of traumas in their adult lives. To continue, the government`s goals were not reached and they had to apologize to the Natives to try to gain their respect. The impact of poor education
The education in residential schools
There was a total of 130 residential schools across Canada, and about 150 000 children attended those institutes. The main goal of the schools was for the Natives to learn English and adopt the Christian and Canadian culture. To do so, the children were prohibited to speak their language or practice their culture, or else they would receive severe punishments. Aboriginal residential schools provided an inferior education to students than the general population in the public school system. They focused on training students for manual labor in agriculture, industries and domestic work such as cooking, sewing and laundry work. Over 40 pour cent of the teaching staff had not received any kind of professional training. Many students had to work for the school involuntary and unpaid after class because the school could not run without it.
With such a poor education, students who reached the age of eighteen only had up to a fifth grade education. This caused a lot of problems later on when the government tried to incorporate Aboriginal students into public schools. Many of them struggled to keep up with the adjustment and those who wanted to attend university were often restrained to do so. That incident made it difficult for Aboriginal communities to break the cycle of poverty.
Residential school conditions
The poor conditions
Many students were taken away from their families, and were not able to communicate with their siblings who attended the same school. The students were forced to do labour work during their stay at the school and were fed poor quality food. The food that was given was sometimes rotten, moldy and infested with maggots. As a form of punishment, many of them were sexually, mentally and physically assaulted. Also, some of them were forced to sleep outside in the winter and they were used for medical experiments. Survivors remember having needles pushed into their tongue if they were caught speaking their language.
These abuses, along with the poor hygiene, overcrowding and inadequate food and health care, resulted in an outrageously high death toll. In 1907, a study by the government medical inspector P.H Bryce reported that 24 pour cent of the kids died ar the schools and 47 to 75 pour cent of those who were discharged from the schools died months within returning home (http://indigenousfoundations.arts.ubc.ca).
The negative impact of the residential schools on the Native communities still remains to this day. Even the people who did not attend those schools still share the same millstones as their ancestors. These include domestic violence due to personal trauma and the loss of Aboriginal language, culture and traditions. Some of those who have attended the schools suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome and the effects make it challenging to take part in social, family and professional environments. Many of the children grew up without experiencing a nurturing family life and without the acquaintance and skills to raise their own families.
Also, the sense of worthlessness that was implanted in the students resulted to self-abuse. The extremely low self-esteem contributed to a high rate of substance use, alcoholism and suicide. The damage caused by the residential schools has caused intergenerational trauma which is the cycle of abuse and trauma from one generation to the next (http://indigenousfoundations.arts.ubc.ca).
The government’s role
The government’s main goal
The government believed that the socio-cultural difference between themselves and the aboriginal people was too wide. They described the Natives as a savage, ignorant, uncivilized and in need of guidance group of people. They assumed that by creating residential schools, they would be able to easily assimilate the Natives, “If anything is to be done with the Indian, we must catch him very young. The children must be kept constantly within the circle of civilized conditions,” ( Davin). Their strategy was to rapidly adapt them to mainstream society through education.
However, it did not go as intended. In 1950, despite all their efforts to extinguish the Native culture, the government realised that the integration was not working. Regardless all the damage that was done, their culture was still surviving. It is at that point that the government recognized the devastating effects of the residential schools. Nevertheless, it wasn`t until 1986 that all doors of the residential schools were closed. The government’s apology
In 1980, survivors of the residential schools started suing the government and churches for all the destruction the residential schools had caused to their individuals and communities. The federal government and churches involved approved to pay collective and individual rewards to the survivors of the residential schools, in 2007. They also promised to the Native culture that they would establish supporting programs to help heal their grief, and to launch a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission is used when a country wants to reconcile and resolve policies or practices, in other words, unify Canada. In 2007, the government announced they would be giving 1.9 billion dollars to the aboriginal people who were forced to attend the schools as a compensation package.
They also provided 120 million dollars to the Aboriginal Healing foundation as well as 100 million dollars given by the churches to finance services towards healing initiatives ( www.CBC.ca). On June 11th 2008, a ceremony was held by the House of Common to publicly apologize for the government`s participation and to recognize the negative impact it has done. That apology was left with a wide range of reactions. Some believed that it was a positive step for the government to build a relationship based on mutual respect while others believed that it would not change the government`s connection with the Aboriginal people. The idea of the residential schools did a lot of harm to the government`s image because many Canadians lost respect towards the government after the truth behind those schools came out.
To conclude, residential schools affected the Natives and the Government negatively despite their original objectives in many ways. The residential schools did not provide the proper education for the Natives. Also, many of them got mentally, physically and sexually abused which lead to a cycle of trauma and abuse for the future generations.
To continue, the government`s initial goals were not reached and they lost the respect and trust of many Canadians. Although the government tried to help the Native population financially and through healing support, it is difficult for the victims to leave the past behind. The Aboriginal communities still struggle to adapt to our society, which proves how persistent a nation can be.
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