Opinion: Canada’s History of Forced Assimilation Rears its Ugly Head

Opinion: Canada’s History of Forced Assimilation Rears its Ugly Head
"Indian Residential School, [Fort] Resolution, Northwest Territories / Pensionnat indien catholique de [Fort] Resolution (Territoires du Nord-Ouest)" by BiblioArchives

The news sent shockwaves across North America and beyond. The remains of 215 children have been uncovered inside the grounds at Canada's largest indigenous residential school, Tk'emlups te Secwépemc First Nation in Kamloops, British Columbia, confirmed.

The heartbreaking news quickly traveled across Indian Country, leaving many tribal leaders searching for ways to not only honor the lives lost but help community members who have been victimized by residential schools.

From the 19th century until the 1970s, over 150,000 First Nations children between the ages of 4–16 were required to attend state-funded Christian schools as means to assimilate them into Canadian society. They were forced to convert to Christianity and not allowed to speak their native languages. Many were starved, beaten, raped and verbally abused, and up to 6,000 are said to have died.

The schools were likened to prison systems or Nazi camps under the guise of providing native children a good Christian education; however, the schools were nothing more than a horrific place of institutionalized pedophilia. These residential schools' only goal was to erase and eradicate the indigenous people and identity.

As the theory went, “kill the Indian in the child.” 

Other than a weak apology from the Canadian government and the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement established in 2008, there hasn’t been any legal action against persons involved. Religious institutions, have completely ignored the issue and have yet to issue an apology or set up reparations for survivors.

Cree lawyer, Eleanor Sunchild, represents many residential school survivors and urges Canada to finally admit residential schools were an act of genocide that has contributed to severe generational trauma. The report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission focused on financial compensation but never dealt with the healing of the community and those affected. Many came back to their communities feeling like outsiders unable to navigate their native way of life. An entire generation of indigenous people suffers from PTSD, survivor guilt, nightmares, shame, depression, and anger, which lead them into dangerous outcomes, including but not limited to, substance abuse, unhealthy relationships, jail, and suicide.

According to Sunchild, the impact of residential schools can be seen in the large numbers of indigenous people in jail and children in the welfare system. It can be seen by the large numbers of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. It can be seen by the lack of interest in healthcare systems, judicial systems, and educational systems in place for indigenous people.

According to the Reconciliation Canada Report:

  • 150,000 Indigenous children were forcibly taken from their homes
  • 80,000 survivors live in regions of Canada
  • 90 to 100% suffered from physical, sexual, emotional, and mental abuse
  • 40 to 60% mortality rate
  • Most students only reached a fifth-grade level due to forced labor and manual tasks

Sadly, as tribal leaders try to cope and help their communities who have been triggered by recent events, this is just one of many stories of forced assimilation and worse.

Two-hundred fifteen children have spoken. Two-hundred fifteen children refused to be erased.

How many more are out there?

Last Updated on June 11, 2021 by Jared McKiernan

About Jeanette Centeno

Jeanette Centeno (Taíno) is a nurse with 18 years of experience, ranging from Spinal Cord Injury patients to case management. She is committed to advocating for adequate healthcare and proper intervention for all people. Centeno currently works at the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, one of the leading acute care hospitals in treating Spinal Cord Injury.

7 Comments on “Opinion: Canada’s History of Forced Assimilation Rears its Ugly Head”

  • Avatar for Sunnie



    HOW ABSOULETLY DISCUSTING, AWFUL AND JUST DOWN RIGHT EVIL!!! IN TODAYS TIME THE PEOPLE STILL ALLOW HOLLOCOST TO STILL SURVIVE!! When will the constant abuse of OUR FIRST PEOPLES, OUR NATIVE AMERICANS STOP!?!?!?! I am appalled at Canada ‘s response!!! I use to purchase items from canada, TO DAY I STOP!!! THESE POOR CHILDREN, THEIR POOR PARENTS, WHERE IS THE JUSTICE?!! WHERE IS THE RESPECT FOR THEIR BODIES, THEIR PAIN AND THEIR RESTLESSNESS????!! why were they forced to relinquish their children to these systems??!! How many Canadians were forced to put their children in such schools??!! Do we make them do this if they come to america??!! Because they are speaking their ” native” tongue of french and not ENGLISH??!! DID america put those children in such schools by force??!! WHEN WILL THIS STOP, WHY DO THE CHRISTIANS, ETC… FEEL THEY HAVE THE RIGHT TO FORCE ANY Religious CHOICES ON ANYONE??!!!??? Personally I feel the biggest crooks, pedophiles, etc are christians….. I say this from experience and research….. THESE FAMALIES, CHILDREN MUST BE HONORED, ACKNOWLEDGED !!! THE CANADIAN GOVERNMENT MUST ACKNOWLEDGE THESE FAMALIES, AND PRECIOUS CHIDRENS BODIES!! THEY NEED TO PROSECUTE ALL THOSE INVOLVED IN THESE ACTIONS!!! THIS TYPE OF GENOCIDE AND ALL GENOCIDE NEEDS TO STOP NOW!!! SO MANY deaths throughout history in the ” name of religion” !!!!!!! No wonder SO MANY ARE PULLING AWAY FROM ALL RELIGIONS!!! It is all backed by crooks, thieves and pedophiles , all through history!!!!! its all about power, not the worship of God, Great Spirit, Jesus, etc…… CANADA HONOR THESE CHILDREN, THESE FAMALIES THAT HAD THEIR CHILDREN STOLEN BY YOUR RULES!!!! MAKE THINGS RIGHT !! HONOR THE DECEASED LITTLE BABES!!! I will NO LONGER order items made in Canada no matter how much I will miss them UNTIL THIS SITUATION IS CORRECTED, and will go on and urge others to do the same!!!!! DISCUSTED, COMPLETELY DISCUSTED WITH THIS REPORT!!! PRAYERS TO THE FAMALIES, THE CHILDREN AND ALL THOSE WHO HAVE LOST THEIR LOVED ONES TO THIS GREAT DISCRIMINATION OF A PEOPLE!!!!!!!!!!!!! ” A HO, BLESSED BE & AMEN……..

  • Avatar for Neache



    It is way beyond the time to right a terrible wrong, can never be reversed but make certain it never ever happens again.

  • Avatar for Agnes 0

    Agnes 0


    This is shocking ,but the British Goverment was involved in this happening they have a lot to ANSWER for .I just don’t know what to say it is just so terrible can you imagine what these kids have gone through in the name of RELIGION no wonder people are not attending the churches but they will ANSWER for what they have done when they meet there maker

  • Avatar for Ronnie Collins

    Ronnie Collins


    as bad as Nazi Germany and the treatment of the Jews

  • Avatar for Scott Dillon

    Scott Dillon


    Just to clarify. The last residential school was officially closed in Canada in 1996. Unofficially there was one that was quietly closed in 1997. Either way, me being a child of a residential school survivor this has generated many emotions, especially considering I went to a catholic school in Calgary and was never taught this in school. I graduated in 1994. There is serious intergenerational trauma being felt now through all nations. We need healing. We need ceremony. We need to come together as one nation as opposed to multiple nations. We all suffered. We are all still suffering. This is only the tip of the iceberg. There were 140 residential schools and all of them are known to have graves like this. All of them. Hiy hiy. Quyananni. Thank you.

  • Avatar for Jenny Fallaw

    Jenny Fallaw


    The news sent shockwaves across North America and beyond. The remains of 215 children have been uncovered inside the grounds at Canada’s largest indigenous residential school, Tk’emlups te Secwépemc First Nation in Kamloops, British Columbia, confirmed.…
    I AM APPALLED, furious and 🤬🤬🤬🤬 to know that such cruel, ugly evil people can get away with and not be held accountable for their actions!!

  • Avatar for John Jack

    John Jack



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