Indian Residential Schools (IRS) are part of Canada’s history that is not well known or understood by many. Indian Residential Schools were created to separate Aboriginal children from their families in order to minimize and weaken family ties and cultural linkages, and to indoctrinate children into Euro-Christian Canadian society. The schools were government-funded and Church-run for well over 100 years, the last one closing in 1996. As a result of the IRS system and the abuses suffered by generations of Aboriginal children, Canada’s relationship with Aboriginal people has suffered and healing and reparation is needed.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) was constituted as part of the Indian Residential Schools (IRS) Settlement Agreement implemented in 2007, which settled the largest class-action lawsuit in Canada’s history launched by several thousand survivors of IRS. The mandate of the TRC was to inform all Canadians about what happened in Indian Residential Schools. To this end, the Commission spent six years travelling to all parts of Canada documenting the truth of survivors, families, communities and anyone personally affected by the IRS experience. One of the key findings was that IRS facilitated cultural genocide.
On December 15, 2015, the TRC released its 6-volume final report, a comprehensive record of the policies and operations of the schools, what the TRC did, what was heard from more than 6,000 witnesses, and what was concluded about the schools. The report includes 94 calls to action (recommendations) to advance the process of reconciliation in Canada. The calls to action are in a range of categories including; child welfare, education, language and culture, health, and justice.
On December 8, 2015, the Prime Minister outlined a 5-point plan towards a new relationship with Indigenous people in Canada, which involves immediate action to:
- implement all 94 recommendations from the TRC,
- make significant investments in First Nations education,
- lift the 2% cap on funding for First Nations programs,
- launch a national public inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women, and
- repeal all legislation unilaterally imposed on Indigenous people by the previous government.