Canada: Way We Treated Aboriginal Kids Was 'Cultural Genocide'

Report condemns forced schooling
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 2, 2015 4:05 PM CDT
Canada: Way We Treated Aboriginal Kids Was 'Cultural Genocide'
In this 2008 photo, native elders in Vancouver watch then Prime Minister Stephen Harper deliver an apology for the aboriginal schools.   (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jonathan Hayward)

Investigators interviewed 6,750 people over six years to compile a 360-page report on the Canadian government's old policy of forced schooling for aboriginal kids, but two words will do: "cultural genocide." That's the term the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report uses to describe the government's practice from 1893 to 1998. Native kids were separated from their families and forced to attend church-run schools so they could learn European ways, reports the Globe and Mail. Because many of the schools were Catholic, the report says the pope should issue an apology. It also for the first time puts a number to the students who died while attending the schools—3,201, reports the New York Times. Physical abuse (it was "rampant"), disease, and neglect were common causes.

If that weren't bad enough, the government decided that returning dead children to their families for burial would be too expensive, and so it buried them in makeshift cemeteries, often in unmarked graves and sometimes with more than one student to a grave. The government apologized for the schools in 2008, and the new report lists 94 recommendations to repair relations, reports the CBC, including the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. "Non-aboriginal Canadians hear about the problems faced by aboriginal communities but they have almost no idea how those problems developed,” writes report chair Justice Murray Sinclair. “This has left most Canadians with the view that aboriginal people were and are to blame for the situations in which they find themselves as though there were no external cause.” (Read more Canada stories.)

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