12.16.2020 09:09 AM

Residential schools: key dates

• 1883: residential schools set up to “kill the Indian in the child”
• 1920: law forcing internment of all Indigenous children, ages 7-15
• 1996: last residential school closes, 6,000 children have died in them
• 2020: Erin O’Toole says the schools “provided education”


  1. Pipes says:

    I have had the privilege and honour of developing friendships with the Anishinaabe. Everyone of my Anishinaabe friends are decent and respectful people. I have heard their stories of the horror of residential schools. A story that comes to mind at the moment was an 8 year old who was put into a cellar for two weeks to “watch the furnace”. He sat in the dark alone for TWO WEEKS. He was eight! When he came out of the cellar he was “different”. I don’t know exactly what Erin O’Toole said, but if he thinks residential schools ‘provided education’, I’d have to ask who was that education for? I think the residential schools provided recreation for those who operated them. Someone needs to take the ‘tool’ out of O’Toole.

    Issues involving the Anishinaabe are complex. Many of them feel that the government wont be happy until all of the Anishinaabe are dead.

  2. Brine says:

    He’s not wrong. The narrative that residential schools were totally and irretrievably evil is very simplistic. The abuse that many suffered is what’s bad, not the goal of educating indigenous children itself.

    Here is another viewpoint:

  3. To add full context, here’s the alleged quotes I was able to find:

    “Let’s learn from the bad mistakes and, in some (cases), tragic circumstances of our past. But when Egerton Ryerson was called in by Hector Langevin and people, it was meant to try and provide education,” O’Toole said, referring to the creation of the residential school system.

    “It became a horrible program that really harmed people, and we have to learn from that, and I wear orange, and I do that. But we’re not helping anyone by misrepresenting the past.”

  4. Steve T says:

    Completely agree. Some – including many with a vested interest – want to reduce the situation to black and white.

    I have a close personal relative who taught in a residential school. The one in Kenora, that Secret Path was written about, in fact. While that specific situation was horrible, it is also horrible to portray every teacher as a racist, and every student as a victim, and every school as the equivalent of a concentration camp.

    Some students learned skills that would go on to benefit them immensely in adapting to modern society. Some students formed close bonds to the staff of the school. Some parents were not coerced into sending their kids to the schools, but did so voluntarily in the hopes of giving them a better life.
    The relative of mine frequently had the families of some his students to his house in Kenora. His students babysat his kids. He is still in touch with some of his former students.

    There are many vested interests in the “grievance industry” who benefit when the story about residential schools is told in black and white. It is not, however, the truth.

  5. Glen says:

    Except that’s not what he said.

    He said their original purpose was intended to provide education.

    Personally I would call it “reeducation” as that’s more accurate.

    He wasn’t wrong, but he could have worded it better.

    Better yet just said “residential schools were a terrible idea no matter what the intent” – as equally true as his original statement.

    But the woke crowd will jump on this screaming racist at the top of their lungs, as you can already see.

    By the way, one of my Aunts died in a residential school as a child, in case you think I’m just another white guy defending OT.

    • Warren says:

      No, I think you’re a fool. Because your hero just apologized for what you have insisted no apology was deserved.

      • Glen says:

        Except he’s not my hero, nor has any other politician of any stripe ever been or ever will be.

        I didn’t listen to his apology, so I don’t know what exactly he apologized for. He could have apologized for making a poor choice of words in his statement, which is really all he did when you look at it in context.

        In any case, my money is on he apologized to make it go away and get it out of the news cycle, as I’m sure he was advised to do, toute suite.


  6. Now the debate will move on as to whether Ryerson should stay Ryerson.

    À la Cleveland Indians.

  7. Donny the K says:

    You’re completely wrong. The goal was not “education,” it was extinguishment of “Indian” people by eradicating “Indian” identity by destroying their language and culture (that’s why they were taken from their homes and families – those “savage” influences). The “education” in the schools amounted to basic spelling and math for a small part of the day, after which the boys worked the stables or grounds and the girls sewed and did laundry or other chores. The goal clearly was not fostering the next generation of lawyers, leaders, educators, artists, academics and experts. The rampant physical, psychological and sexual abuse made it worse, but it would have been profoundly damaging without that. Heck, it almost worked. Thank goodness we’re resilient.
    p.s. My father went to residential school in the 40s. He was only 4 and too young to go but the authorities were taking all his siblings so they figured “why not?”

    • Steve Teller says:

      What happened to some of the students is terrible. That should never be forgotten, or washed over.

      But to suggest that the majority of students were abused, or that nothing of value was learned, or the entire intention of the schools was evil, is unfair.

      If you look at O’Toole’s entire statement, you will see the true intention of his words. However, those who want to score political points – or are in the “grievance industry” and stand to gain by painting everything in black and white – don’t care about his true intention.

    • Pipes says:

      I think its called genocide everywhere else in the world, except China where it is know as thought reform

  8. Gloriousus et Liber says:

    I know what he was trying to say, but I still cringed when I read what he said. I was hoping he would be smarter than this and his “angry white guy” shtick was an act for the leadership campaign. So far, I’ve only liked what he’s had to say about China. The Tories better learn quick that playing Trumpy games in Canada gets you Trumpy (i.e. stupid) prizes.

    • Pedant says:

      You perceive O’Toole as “angry”? Who exactly are you looking at? I actually think he looks too jovial and smiley! He should be far more passionate and direct about the destruction that the Trudeau government has wrought on Canada and middle-class Canadians.

      Additionally I’m not sure why you felt it necessary to point out O’Toole’s race. Can you explain why?

  9. William says:

    How many white kids died in school? Anyone who has ANYTHING good to say about these “schools” is a complete fool.

    • Pedant says:

      He didn’t say anything good about the schools. He said the intentions of SOME of the schools’ originators might have been in good faith. It was perhaps a pointless statement to make. In any terrible policy there are bound to be a few misguided fools who thought they were doing virtuous work.

      Anyway he apologized without equivocation and it seems to have blown over. From my perspective he seems to handle these things far better than Scheer.

    • Steve Teller says:

      So there it is: buy into the black-and-white narrative, or else you are a “fool”.

      The reality is that while a number of indigenous children died while students at residential schools, many of them did not die BECAUSE they were in residential schools. Yet that makes for a wonderfuly-simplistic narrative. To your question, of course children of all ages (many of whom are students) die each year. See for example:

      Interesting how we (rightly) criticize when certain groups are dehumanized and stereotyped, but I guess it is OK to do that for anyone ever associated with residential schools?

      • William says:

        100 hundred years of forcibly removing children from their parents to beat the Indian out of them makes me sick. Also, anyone who defends or tries to rationalize this heinous act likewise makes me sick.

  10. Malcolm says:

    Quote: 1883: residential schools set up to “kill the Indian in the child”
    Fact Check
    This is a misquotation of US General Richard Henry Pratt, the founder of Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. What he actually said was “kill the Indian; save the man.” And in the speech where he said this, he pointed out that residential schools would not do this. No Canadian politician ever said this.
    Quote: 1920: law forcing internment of all Indigenous children, ages 7-15.
    Fact check
    In 1920 the Indian Act was amended to make it compulsory for Status Indian children to attend either an Indian Residential school or a Day School. The problem was that often there were no Day Schools available for students, so the only options were Residential school or no school at all.
    Was it compulsory for “white” children to attend school? Yes it was.

  11. david says:

    No more politicians making long-winded speeches
    using words made of English that have lost all their meaning
    just Hail Mary passes on the road to Damascus
    cause they’ll never see the light or be converted.

    a verse from a new song re first nations.

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