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Discover: Residential Schools & Sixties Scoop (Sub-Module 4 of 8 of Discover Module)

Content Warning: Please note that this section covers difficult topics and Survivor stories related to residential schools that some readers may find distressing. For residential school Survivors and their families, 24-hour support is available through the Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line at 1-800-721-0066. If you're a student from an Ontario college, please consult the student support services available at your college.


Residential Schools

From 1883 to 1996, Christian churches ran more than 130 federally-funded residential schools which were created to assimilate Indigenous children into Canadian society. Over 150,000 First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children and youth were forcibly taken from their homes and placed in residential schools. Many children died as a result of inadequate conditions and abuse. Those who survived, experienced trauma and its continued effects. The 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission report called the residential school system and act of cultural genocide by the Canadian government and Christian churches (Defining Moments in Canada).

Source: Dr. P.H. Bryce’s The Story of a National Crime (1922): A Glossary (Defining Moments in Canada; CC BY-NC)

Video: Residential Schools in Canada: A Timeline

The history of residential schools in Canada can be traced as far back as the 17th century. Watch the “Residential Schools in Canada Timeline” video to learn about the significant dates in its history.

Indigenous Voices on Residential Schools

"I challenge you to listen to, watch, read, and share the stories of residential school Survivors. Really try to learn from and share the teachings that these Survivors are choosing to pass on" (Elder Edna Manitowabi).

Video: Murray Sinclair delivers statement on discovery at Kamloops residential school

Former senator Murray Sinclair, who chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, said Canadians should prepare themselves for more discoveries similar to what was found at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.

Intergenerational Trauma

Intergenerational or historical trauma, is trauma experienced by cultural groups as a result of oppression. When nothing is done to address the trauma, it gets passed down through generations. At the same time, harmful behaviours that arose because of the trauma eventually become normalized and continue to become present through generations (Teach for Canada). In the case of residential schools, children who were in these schools "returned to their home communities without the knowledge, skills or tools to cope in either world. The impacts of their institutionalization in residential school continue to be felt by subsequent generations" (The Canadian Encyclopedia).

Intergenerational effects of resident schools include:

  • Family & parenting: Because residential schools enforced a parenting model that is based on abuse, punishment, control, and neglect, Survivors of residential schools weren't familiar with how to create nurturing environments for their own children. This has also been attributed to higher rates of family violence and domestic partner abuse among Survivors.
  • Mental health: The psychological, spiritual, physical and sexual abuses experienced by residential school Survivors have resulted in mental health challenges for many.
  • High rates of unemployment and homelessness.
  • Poor housing conditions in First Nations communities.
  • Higher number of Indigenous Peoples involved in the justice system. (The Canadian Encyclopedia)  

Sources: Indian Residential Schools & Intergenerational Trauma with Elder Dan Thomas (Teach for Canada) | Intergenerational Trauma and Residential Schools  (The Canadian Encyclopedia)

Sixties Scoop

"The Sixties Scoop is a dark and painful chapter in Canada’s history. Between the 1960s and 1980s, Indigenous children were removed from their homes by child welfare authorities and many were placed in foster care or adopted out to non-Indigenous families" (Government of Canada).  

Source: Sixties Scoop Agreement in Principle (Government of Canada)

Video: Adoptees of Sixties Scoop tell their stories

Thousands of indigenous children across Canada were taken from their homes and adopted into white families during the Sixties Scoop. Duane Morrisseau-Beck, Colleen Cardinal, Leslie Noganosh, Shaun Ladue and Tealey Normandin tell their stories.