Boarding schools were established for Aboriginal children by the Recollets, a French order in New France as early as the 1620’s. In the 1820’s, Protestant, Catholic, Anglican and Methodist churches were running similar schools. In 1920, attendance at residential schools in Canada was made mandatory for all children ages 7 – 15, though many church run schools were already functioning for decades prior. Parents who resisted this policy by keeping their children at home risked imprisonment.
In 1996, Gordon Residential School in Saskatchewan was the last school to close.
Justice Murray Sinclair, chairperson of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, when asked what he would say to those that advise people to, “Just get over it. Residential schools were in the past, why don’t you move on?” stated, “It is not over. We are still in the era of residential schools, because of their lingering effects.”
Lasting effects of the traumas suffered in residential schools include suicide, depression, addictions, difficulties in developing positive loving relationships and healthy communities, lack of parenting skills, weakening of culture and language, and lateral violence (Aboriginal people becoming violent with each other).