About Residential Schools

The Indian Residential School System (IRSS), as defined by the federal government, is limited to 139 schools that operated across Canada between 1831 and 1996. This definition is controversial and excludes provincially-administered schools, as well as hostels and day schools. Residential schools existed in almost all provinces and territories, and in the North also took the form of hostels and tent camps. The earliest recognized and longest-running Indian Residential School was the Mohawk Institute, in Brantford, Ontario, which operated from 1831 to 1962. The last federally-run Indian Residential School, Gordon's School in Punnichy, Saskatchewan, closed in 1996, and was subsequently demolished, marking the end of the residential school era. 

For over a century, beginning in the mid1800s and continuing into the late 1990s, Aboriginal children in Canada were taken from their homes and communities, and were placed in institutions called residential schools. These schools were run by religious orders in collaboration with the federal government and were attended by children as young as four years of age. Separated from their families and prohibited from speaking their native languages and practicing their culture the vast majority of the 150,000 children who attended these schools experienced neglect and suffering.

The impacts of sexual, mental, and physical abuse, shame, and deprivation endured at Indian Residential Schools continue to affect generations of Survivors, their families, and communities today. It is estimated that 80,000  Survivors of the residential schools are alive today. Remarkably, in the face of this remendous adversity, many Survivors and their descendants have retained their language and their culture and continue to work toward healing and reconciliation. 

Today, healing initiatives are taking place in every region of the country, in cities and small towns, on reserves and in rural, remote and isolated communities. Sharing circles, healing circles, smudging, Sundances, the Potlatch, Pow-wows, and many other ceremonies have been revived in the last few decades, providing a multiplicity of positive models not only for healing, but for people to reconnect with their cultural roots. Reconnecting with culture provides an empowering focus in life. People who have a strong sense of their culture have a strong sense of self.


Click here to download the Hope & Healing (2014) booklet.
Hope & Healing 2014 Cover