The Long History Of Indigenous Child Abuse: Canada Edition

Between 1863-1998 more than 150,000 Indigenous children was taken from their families and placed in boarding schools throughout the Canada. During 1876 the Indian Act was introduced in Canada and a long list of laws/rules were put in place. Over the years the Indian Act was revised and new laws were added. Because of the Indian Act Indigenous individuals couldn’t hire lawyers, the event of Indian festivals, dancing or ceremonies was banned, Hereditary chiefs (leaders) was no longer recognized by the government, Indigenous individuals was forced to adopt European names, needed written permission from an “Indian Agent” to leave their reserve, was forbidden from voting and speaking their native language, practicing their traditional religion + more. It’s clear as day the laws were meant to purposely discriminate against Indigenous people and their culture. Full Indian Act (with all amendments) can be read here.

A map of former residential schools in Canada

Until 1951 all indigenous children ages 7-15 had to attend a residential school. Most of these boarding schools were fully Catholic, state ran and received a large amount of funding to operate. During their time at the school(s) students was extremely mistreated and abused. Whether it was discrimination, deprivation, every level of sexual, mental, emotional and physical abuse these children went through it all. There was a total of 139 boarding schools (150,000+ students) and 700 day schools (200,000+ students). In the end approximately 6,000+ children (as young as 3yrs old) died. Around 1,500 of the children was buried in unmarked graves at a few boarding schools. As many as 700 graves was found at one school. Shortly after the Canadian government pledged $27M towards finding more unmarked graves. During July 2022 the Pope apologized to the Indigenous community for the wrongdoings and “deplorable evil” that took place at Catholic boarding schools in Canada. He also promised an independent investigation to find out more about the abuse and history between the Catholic church and Indigenous community.

Pope Francis dons a headdress during a visit with Indigenous peoples at Maskwacis in Edmonton, Alberta, on Monday.
Pope Francis in Canada during apology visit July 2022.

Dating back to 2005 there was a $2B compensation package put together for Indian residential school survivors. The average payout was around $25,000 but victims of sexual abuse was entitled to $275,000. From 2007-2015 38,000+ people (including the families of victims) came forward about the abuse they endured at the residential school and filed a human rights lawsuit. Full human rights lawsuit can be read here. This would lead to a $31.5B settlement January 2022. Another settlement took place December 2021 for the contaminated drinking water on Indigenous reserves. A total of $6.3B was awarded. As of right now the $31.5B settlement is the largest compensation agreement between the Canadian Federal Government and Indigenous communities. At first the largest compensation agreement between the Canadian Federal Government and Indigenous communities was collectively 2007-2019 when A total of $4.8B was awarded to 110,412 survivors. Payment history report can be read here. A report (with testimonies) that explains the history of Indigenous cultural genocide in Canada can be read here.

A two week pass for Edward Yahyahkeekoot from the Saskatchewan Archives Board. This is one of the few remaining passes found in a Canadian archive, and is proof of the pass system. The policy controlled the movement of First Nation people off reserves. (Tamarack Productions)

Findings At Indian Boarding Schools

Name: Sacred Heart Indian Residential School

Location: Fort Providence, NT

Years: 1906-1960

Tribe: Deh Gáh Got’ı̨ę First Nation

Bodies Found: 298 (161 children)

Reference Link


Name: St. Bernard Mission School

Location: Grouard, AB

Years: 1894-1961

Tribe: Kapawe’no First Nation

Bodies Found: 169

Reference Link


Name: Kamloops Indian Residential School

Location: Kamloops, BC

Years: 1890-1978

Tribe: Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc

Bodies Found: 215

Reference Link


Name: Marieval Indian Residential School

Location: Grayson, SK

Years: 1898-1997

Tribe: Cowessess First Nation

Bodies Found: 751

Reference Link


Name: Cranbrook

Location: Cranbrook, BC

Years: 1890-1970

Tribe: Ktunaxa Nation

Bodies Found: 182

Reference Link


Name: Kuper Island

Location: Kuper Island, BC

Years: 1890-1975

Tribe: Penelakut

Bodies Found: 160

Reference Link


Name: Brandon Indian Residential School

Location: Brandon, MB

Years: 1895-1972

Tribe: Sioux Valley Dakota Nation

Bodies Found: 104 (only 78 identified)

Reference Link


Name: Muscowequan Indian Residential School

Location: Lestock, SK

Years: 1889-1997

Tribe: Muskowekwan First Nation, Saskatchewan

Bodies Found: 35 + 104

Reference Link

(Bones began appearing near the site of the former Catholic ran Muskowekwan Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan during water-line work during the early 1990’s. The Muskowekwan First Nation (in partnership with two universities) also found 104 unmarked graves in 2018.)


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