Canada examining abuses at church schools for Indians

Armen Hareyan's picture

A truth-and-reconciliation commission examining what Indian leaders call one of the most tragic and racist chapters in Canada's history will begin its work on Sunday.

The commission has a five-year mandate to study Canada's decades-long government policy requiring Canadian Indians to attend state-funded church schools, often the scenes of physical and sexual abuse.

From the 19th century until the 1970s, more than 150,000 aboriginal children were required to attend Christian schools in a painful attempt to rid them of their native cultures and languages and integrate them into Canadian society.

The federal government admitted 10 years ago that physical and sexual abuse in the once-mandatory schools was rampant.

Many students recall being beaten for speaking their native languages and losing touch with their parents and customs.

That legacy of abuse and isolation has been cited by Indian leaders as the root cause of epidemic rates of alcoholism and drug addiction on reservations.

"It's the darkest most tragic chapter in Canadian history and virtually no one knows about this," Phil Fontaine, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, told a news agency.

The commission will spend five years travelling across the country to hear stories from former students, teachers and others involved in the so-called residential schools run by the Roman Catholic Church and various Protestant denominations.

Source: By DDNEWS

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