The Canadian government, under the influence of Prime Minister John MacDonald, passed the Indian Act in 1876, and this legislation represented a scheme aimed at controlling the indigenous people in the country, obliterating their identity and subordinating them to the administration of the government.
Soon after that, the government established “boarding schools” to enable them to urbanize by integrating them with Western culture and Christianize, and the Canadian government funded the boarding schools and commissioned several churches to run them, over a period of more than a century.
The documentary film “Schools of the Dark Time” presented live testimonies of people who were in these schools during childhood, and expressed the extent of the injustice and torment they were subjected to during this period of their lives, as an electric chair was used to punish them, as they were subjected to sexual abuse.
The documentary revealed that more than 150,000 indigenous children were forcibly separated from their parents and placed in these education centers, and the last school of this kind was closed in 1996.
As for the nutrition of these children, the soft oatmeal that the students were forced to eat every day led the school to be called a “pit”.
In 1922, Dr. Peter Price commissioned a study of health conditions in boarding schools in Canada, discovering that between 14% and 24% of students died, with the rate even higher in young children.
Today it is believed that at least 6,000 children have died in boarding schools in Canada, with some estimates suggesting that the total losses could be three times that number.
By the 1980s, indigenous peoples began to speak out about their experiences of injustice and abuse, and survivors launched a lawsuit against the government.
In contrast, the Canadian government established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2008, and the commission toured various parts of the country for 6 years, and heard the testimonies of nearly 7,000 eyewitnesses as part of its mission to document this history of attacks and abuses.
In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released a summary report that included 94 calls for immediate action to address the legacy of boarding schools and advance the Canadian reconciliation process.