Active for over 160 years, government-run, church-operated residential schools were instituted in order to indoctrinate Indigenous peoples into colonial European political, social, and cultural values. Between the 1830s and 1996, when the last residential school closed in Canada, more than 150,000 First Nations, Métis, and Inuit children were forcibly removed from their families and communities to live in boarding schools, where they were stripped of their culture, traditions, and native language through systematic abuse under the pretense of education. The legacy of the residential school system continues to have far-reaching effects on survivors, their descendants, and communities today.
In 2015, the TRC published its summary findings and 94 Calls to Action to redress the legacy of residential schools. Among these are calls on federal and provincial governments to educate the public and address systemic prejudice against Indigenous people in areas such as criminal justice, child welfare, and healthcare.
Reconciliation has only just begun. Just as the system itself did not develop overnight, the process of healing will take time and effort. It is on all of us, individually and as a country, to acknowledge our shared history and its role on the present in order to improve the future.