Canada's Dark Secret | Featured Documentaries

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Canada's Dark Secret | Featured Documentary

In 1996, the last residential school in Canada was closed down, bringing to light horrifying stories about the methods used to sever indigenous children from the influence of their families and to assimilate them into the dominant "Canadian" culture. Over more than a century, tens of thousands of families were torn apart as children were kidnapped or forcibly removed from their homes

Residential schools were part of an extensive education system set up by the Canadian government and administered by churches with the objective of indoctrinating Aboriginal children into the Euro-Canadian and Christian way of life.

Bud Whiteye, a survivor of the Mohawk Institute Residential School, was "picked up" and taken to the school along with four other children as they walked along a public road to visit his grandmother.

I'm ashamed to say I'm Canadian because of what my government has done.

Ron Short, former RCMP officer

"They didn't put us in a room and indoctrinate us all day long or anything like that," he explains. "It was in the routine of the place.

"You didn't speak anything but English. You went to the white man's school. You went to the white man's church. You wore white mens' clothes. All those were built in. It wasn't a classroom-type lecture. It was ingrained in the system."

In 2008, the Canadian government launched the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which finally enabled survivors to give their testimonies on life in the residential schools. Abuse - mental, physical and sexual - was rife and, although research and statistics vary, it is estimated that 6,000 children died in these schools. Some evidence puts the casualties at three times that number.

After its formation, the TRC travelled around Canada for six years, gathering testimony from thousands who bore witness to the tragedies of the residential schools. Numerous "Aboriginal healing" programmes were put in place to help those affected to move on with their lives.


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