Native Residential schools have been one of the most darkest and troubling chapters in Canadian history. Residential schools were originally formed by Christian Churches and the Canadian government in an attempt to assimilate Indigenous children into the Canadian culture. Additionally, these schools provided students with an education that focused on training for manual labour in agriculture and domestic work such as laundry and sewing. This system separated children from their families for a great period of time and stripped them away from their Aboriginal heritage. The inhumane treatment of native children in residential schools including the forced assimilation into Euro-Canadian culture, atrocious living conditions, and physical abuse is evidence for the system being an intentional harm. Firstly, residential schools had a devastating effect on young native children because the system forced children into the Euro-Canadian culture which contributed to an enormous loss of Aboriginal language and culture. Residential school system isolated children from their homes, families and traditions by completely removing the children from the influence of their parents.
Furthermore, to ensure English language acquisition, speaking of Aboriginal language was forbidden and enforced through harsh punishment. The result of children being removed from families at a young age was that many students grew up without experiencing a well nurturing family life which eventually lead them to have lack of knowledge and skills to raise their own families. In addition, children who were not given the the right to speak their native tongue could not interact with their own families during the vitistation period in the summer. As a result from the lack of communication, children lost a certain connection with their own parents and siblings. The practice of separating children from their parents had a drastic effect which tore many Indian families.”Parenting skills diminished as succeeding generations institutionalized and experienced little nurturing. This practice of separating children from parents is singularly responsible for many of the problems related to child care now found among Aboriginal parents. The lack of positive role models is because children learn parenting skills by the way they are parented.
“Therefore, many aboriginal children who spent more than ten years in residential schools had little experience as family members and as a result of the limited exposure to community and family life, children didn’t have an example to follow later in life. Aboriginal children not having a parenting example to follow erupted problems to rise such as atrocious behavior and mistreatment towards their own children. “They (our children) don’t realize how hard we had it and they think we are just neglecting them. We just don’t know how to show our affection to them. We don’t know how and that’s hard.”This lack of positive role modeling in the system accompanied many difficulties faced by Aboriginal families.
To conclude, Not only did the forced assimilation of children into the Euro-Canadian culture weaken family structures but it also impacted the native culture and society which was one of the inhumane objectives of the system. Canadian residential schools are known to this day for their terrifying living conditions and dreadful labour. When funding became a concern, the government shifted the burden on students, whose labour was a huge financial contribution. The huge labour contribution made it clear that the system had failed to provide children with acceptable education and training.
The act of shifting the burden of funding on students tells us how residential schools were not built to provide students with an exceptional education but they were built to assimilate children and take advantage of the efforts they put forth. Moreover, the quality of living in schools across Canada was frightful. The food was low in quality and quantity. The everyday clothing children were given to wear was uncomforbale and shabby while winter clothing was cheap and did not protect children from the freezing temperatures. The spread of disease in schools was fed by crowded living conditions, poor nutrition, substandard sanitation and the low quality of medical care. According to the Truth and Reconciliation Commision at least 3,200 students died in residential schools. These conditions are an example of inhumane treatment because if students were allowed access to medical care, professionals could have been able to treat them.
The evidence of the ill treatment students received shows how children did not even have the right to basic living needs such as healthy food and medical attention. Government and school officials were well aware of the alarming living conditions and how they impacted the health of students but choose to do nothing. The lack of concern government expressed shows how little they cared about the native children locked up in rooms, dying day by day. Overall, the disgusting treatment residential schools had only made it more evident that the whole system was intentionally harming the Indigenous children. One of the most horrendous acts that took place in residential schools across Canada was physical and sexual abuse. Impatience and correction of a wrongdoing was just another excuse for excessive punishments including physical abuse. Physical abuse became so prominent in residential schools to the point where if students were caught writing letters to their parents in their Native language instead of English, they would get beaten up very harshly.
In some cases, some of the staff advisors who taught the native children even went far as to sexually abusing many children. The harshness of the discipline was traumatic: “It was the punishment that was really bad. They punished for everything: when you were lined up, you couldn’t talk..
.We were made to go to church, even if you were sick you were still made to go. Some people would faint in Church and they would just take them out.”In addition, instead of teaching children between what is right and wrong by talking to them, residential schools used severe punishment in child rearing.
Residential schools took the freedom of speech away from children and created a lasting fear inside of them. Little did anyone know that the long term effects of physical and sexual abuse can greatly impact one’s life. I love my kids but I’m not.
. You can’t even say it because it wasn’t said to you. Love was a forbidden word and it’s such a beautiful word today but it was not said to us.”The impact that sexual abuse had on native children is still evident to this day. Residential school survivors are not able to love openly and wholeheartedly because they were never loved that way. They never got the chance to see what affection is and how it is used. All they got to see was the abuse they suffered through, which eventually became normal to them.
In conclusion, residential schools across Canada were an intentional harm because of the inhumane treatment that took place within them. The system forced assimilation upon indigenous children into the Canadian culture which lead to the isolation of children from their homes and the lack of parenting skills developed in residential school survivors. Secondly, due to horrible living conditions in the schools, many children died because of disease and lack of medical attention. Children were also forced to do labour which helped fund the system as a whole.
Lastly, forever lasting scars haunt survivors to this day because of the physical and sexual abuse they had to suffer through in the schools. The aftermath effects will forever be long lasting, possibly never ending.