The first government operated residential school opened in the late 1870's with the main objective to assimilate all Aboriginal culture. It was thought that by discarding their heritage, it would 'civilize' them to the modern society. By 1920, there were more than fifty residential schools operating throughout the country and it was made mandatory for children ages four to six to attend these schools which seemed to be education based. The UBC Witness Catalogue describes the government's intent in the following words, "The schools were set up to educate Indigenous children to prepare them, not for careers as doctors, lawyers or entrepreneurs, but for work as labourers on farms and in factories." (pg.6 UBC Witness Catalogue) After only a few days in the residence, many came to find the school a prison. All children were forced to cut their hair short and replace their real names with Christian names. Children of the opposite sex were separated and prohibited to have contact to one another. Many came to find that they knew nothing about their brother or sister after graduating because they had spent their whole childhood separated from one another. Speaking their native language or practising cultural customs were also forbidden in the school. These were two of the many rest...
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...ed to acknowledge the former students with an offering a compensation. This was called the Common Experience Payments. They were made available as an application to any former student who was currently alive. "Former residential school students are eligible for $10,000 for the first year or part of a year they attended school, plus a $3,000 for each subsequent year." (CBC, Residential Schools in Canada) This action was very controversial. Many saw it as the government putting a price tag on the devastation, but nothing can amount to what these people have been through.
The history of Canadian Aboriginals often lies hidden within textbooks. Residential schools was the greatest factors to their cultural change. We must all take time to educate ourselves on this topic, it's importance is engraved in our nation's soil and is part of how Canada came to be as of today.
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