Canada’s Indian Residential School (IRS) system will forever remain one of the country’s most shameful legacies. These government-funded institutions took Indigenous children against their will and subjected them to abuse, neglect, and dangerous living conditions in the name of assimilation into white European culture and religion.
The IRS system was a cultural genocide spanning more than a century.
As Indigenous Rights movement began to grow, Indigenous communities demanded justice from Canada via protests, lawsuits, and intense lobbying. One of those activist-led lawsuits resulted in the largest class-action settlement in Canadian history—mandating apologies from the Canadian government, official church bodies, and other participants in the horrors. It recommended policy changes and allocated approximately $2 billion to distribute among Survivors of the IRS system.
The settlement also led to the 2008 creation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a government-sanctioned body that spent several years:
Hearing testimony from residential schools Survivors within the Indigenous, Métis, and Inuit communities
Compiling a comprehensive and accurate report on the atrocities committed and the intergenerational effects of the system
Recommending far-reaching policy changes and fostering comprehensive educational programs that would prevent such atrocities from ever happening again
About the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
The Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, the largest class-action settlement in Canadian history, began to be implemented in 2007. One of the elements of the agreement was the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada to facilitate reconciliation among former students, their families, their communities and all Canadians.
The official mandate of the TRC includes the principles that guided the commission in its important work.
Between 2007 and 2015, the Government of Canada provided about $72 million to support the TRC's work. The TRC spent 6 years travelling to all parts of Canada and heard from more than 6,500 witnesses. The TRC also hosted 7 national events across Canada to engage the Canadian public, educate people about the history and legacy of the residential schools system, and share and honour the experiences of former students and their families.
The TRC created a historical record of the residential schools system. As part of this process, the Government of Canada provided over 5 million records to the TRC. The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba now houses all of the documents collected by the TRC.
In June 2015, the TRC held its closing event in Ottawa and presented the executive summary of the findings contained in its multi-volume final report, including 94 "calls to action" (or recommendations) to further reconciliation between Canadians and Indigenous Peoples.
In December 2015, the TRC released its entire 6-volume final report. All Canadians are encouraged to read the summary or the final report to learn more about the terrible history of Indian Residential Schools and its sad legacy.
For more, please visit the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation website.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission's final report
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Final Report is a testament to the courage of each and every Survivor and family member who shared their story.
As part of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accepted the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on behalf of Canada.
The Government of Canada continues to be committed to a renewed nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous Peoples based on recognition of rights, respect, cooperation and partnership. The Government of Canada will work closely with provinces, territories, First Nations, the Métis Nation, Inuit groups and church entities to implement recommendations of the TRC and further reconciliation to the benefit of all Canadians. This will include the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The Government of Canada also recognizes that true reconciliation goes beyond the scope of the commission's recommendations. The Prime Minister announced that Canada will work with leaders of First Nations, the Métis Nation, Inuit, provinces and territories, parties to the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement, and other key partners, to design a national engagement strategy for developing and implementing a national reconciliation framework, informed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's recommendations.
As an important step in rebuilding Canada's relationship with Indigenous Peoples, the Prime Minister of Canada met with leaders of the National Indigenous Organizations on December 16, 2015, in Ottawa to continue the dialogue on reconciliation. At that meeting, the Prime Minister committed to National Indigenous Organizations that he would meet with them annually in order to sustain and advance progress on shared priorities.