Canadian Government Charged with 'Cultural Genocide' over Indigenous Schools

The Canadian government’s historic practice of forcibly removing Indigenous youth from their homes and sending them to “residential schools”—where tens of thousands were subjected to abuse, malnutrition, substandard education, illness, and often death—amounts to nothing short of “cultural genocide,” charged the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which on Tuesday released its years-long investigation into the program.

The culmination of six years of research and 6,750 survivor and witness statements, the report argues that the Canadian government operated the school program with the explicit purpose of breaking children’s link “to their culture and identity,” and describes a “lonely and alien” existence, where students’ native languages and practices were suppressed and neglect and abuse were common.According to the report:

“These measures were part of a coherent policy to eliminate Aboriginal people as distinct peoples and to assimilate them into the Canadian mainstream against their will,” the report states. Further, the Commission argues that the government “pursued this policy of cultural genocide because it wished to divest itself of its legal and financial obligations to aboriginal people and gain control over their land and resources.”

Over the course of 150 years, an estimated 150,000 Indigenous children spent time in roughly 80 residential schools throughout the country. Approximately 80,000 survivors are still alive today.

The Commission lays out 94 calls for action, which it says are the “first steps” toward addressing the legacy of injustice and advancing the process of reconciliation.