“I want to get rid of the Indian problem. I do not think as a matter of fact, that the country ought to continuously protect a class of people who are able to stand alone… Our objective is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic and there is no Indian question, and no Indian Department, that is the whole object of this Bill.”
– Duncan Campbell Scott, Department of Indian Affairs, 1920
The origins of indigenous residential schools in Canada can be traced back to the 19th century. They have been in operation for nearly 160 years, and the last batches were closed in 1996. During this period, approximately 130 schools were opened. Nearly 150,000 indigenous children were separated from their families and taken to these state-run residential schools, often forcefully. Many of these children were even exposed to physical and sexual abuses When compulsory attendance was introduced in the 1920s, parents faced the threat of imprisonment if they did not comply. According to a study of residential schools by the University of Manitoba it is estimated that by the 1930s, nearly 30% of Indigenous children attended these schools.
It was forbidden for children to practice their native religion and speak their native languages. Students were forced to remove their legal identity as Indians. Disconnected from their families and culture and compelled to talk English or French, students who attended the residential establishment typically graduated being unable to suit into their communities however remaining subject to racist attitudes in thought Canadian society. In the end, the system prevailed, destroying indigenous customs and beliefs from generation to generation. According to Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde, “it was our government’s policy to ‘get rid of the Indian’ in the child.
Students were forced to live in shabby rooms with poor heating and sanitation facilities. Many were unable to obtain qualified medical personnel and were severely and cruelly punished. Many children never return home or die due to negligence, illness or suicide. Their families knew next to nothing about their fate. Some people are not told anything, just the fact that their children disappear.
A Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established in 2008 to investigate boarding schools, calling this practice “cultural genocide.” The Federal Government of Canada stopped registering the death toll at around 1920 after the Chief Medical Officer of Indian Affairs advised that children died at an alarming rate. In 2015, an estimation of 6,000 children was given who had died in residential schools. To date, more than 4,100 children have been identified.
In 2021, hundreds of more unknown graves were discovered on the site of former residential schools. In May, Rosanna Casimir, Chief of Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc, announced that the remains of 215 children had been found near Kamloops in southern British Columbia. It is said that some of the remains belonged to children as young as three years old. All these children attended Kamloops Indian Residential School, which is the largest school of its kind in the Canadian boarding school system.
In June, the Cowess First Nation in Saskatchewan announced that after similar investigations, they found 751 unmarked graves, the largest to date. The remains were found close to the previous Marieval Indian Residential School, that operated from 1899 to 1996 underneath the management of the Roman Catholic Church.
Then, just a week later, the Lower Kootenay Group in British Columbia reported that the remains of another 182 people were found near the old San Eugenio Mission School. From 1912 to the early 1970s, San Eugenio was ruled by the Catholic Church.
Most of these remains are unidentified.
“Children ended up in pauper graves,” Ms Stephanie Scott, executive director of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation said. “Unmarked, unknown.”
In a recent statement given by Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, he apologized on behalf of the Canadian Federal Government and said, “The government will continue to provide Indigenous communities across the country with the funding and resources they need to bring these terrible wrongs to light… While we cannot bring back those who were lost, we can – and we will – tell the truth of these injustices, and we will forever honour their memory.”
Ms. Scott expressed the unmarked graves paves a chance to show what native communities are owed and what they still experience as a community. She aforesaid education and dialogue regarding these atrocities are simply the primary steps.
I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.
If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.
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