Residential Schools

RESIDENTIAL SCHOOLS were government-funded, church-operated boarding schools for FIRST NATIONS children. The first ones opened in Ontario in the 1840s and the government extended them across the country during the 1880s. In BC before that time First Nations children attended either the available public schools with other children or the several schools established by missionaries (see EDUCATION). Along with providing a basic education, residential schools, also known as industrial schools, tried to suppress traditional aboriginal language and culture in the absence of parental influence, in order to assimilate First Nations children into mainstream society. No matter how well-meaning administrators may have been in their desire to educate First Nations for economic self-sufficiency, the schools in many cases had devastating effects on children and their families. Many children died at the institutions, which were incubators for fatal diseases. Others were brutally disciplined, and sexually and psychologically abused. The schools were phased out beginning in the 1960s, when the government ended its partnership arrangement with the churches and either closed or handed schools over to First Nations bands to operate. In 1992 a report by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples blamed the schools for contributing to the high rates of substance abuse, suicide and family dysfunction among First Nations people. The previous year an OBLATE brother had been convicted of gross indecency involving children at St Joseph's Mission in WILLIAMS LAKE. An investigation by a special BC task force established in 1994 led to ongoing charges and more convictions. In 1998, 10 people who were abused at St Joseph's reached an out-of-court settlement with the federal government and the ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH, the first agreement of its kind in Canada. Churches have apologized for their role in the administration of the schools, as did the federal government early in 1998 and again in 2008, the same year the government established a truth and reconciliation commission to investigate the legacy of the schools. Since 1994 the Provincial Residential School Project has promoted public awareness about the history and legacy of the residential schools.

There were 18 residential schools in BC; 10 were operated by Catholic missionaries, 5 by the United Church and 3 by Anglicans.

Roman Catholic
St Joseph's Mission, Williams Lake
Christie School, Meares Island, CLAYOQUOT SOUND
St. Augustine's, SECHELT
St Mary's, MISSION

United Church

Ahousat, Clayoquot Sound
Port Simpson (see FORT SIMPSON)
Kitamaat (see KITIMAT)

Alert Bay Girl's Home
St George's, LYTTON
St Michael's, ALERT BAY