Residential School System
NATI 3116EL – Aboriginal People and the Criminal Justice System Final Research Paper Residential School System & Intergenerational Impact The purpose of residential schooling was to assimilate Aboriginal children into mainstream Canadian society by disconnecting them from their families and communities and severing all ties with languages, customs and beliefs (Chansoneuve, 2005).
The following paper with depict the history behind residential schools, the varying schools across Canada, the intergenerational impact and influence the residential school system had issues such as alcoholism, family violence, substance abuse, lack of education, the increasing crime rate and the role of the Criminal Justice System in Canada. In addition to, what the government has accomplished in terms of compensation for the suffering that occurred.
The Aboriginal Healing Foundation defines residential schools as being industrial schools, boarding schools, homes for students, hostels, billets, residential schools, residential schools with a majority of day students, or a combination of any of the above by which attended by Aboriginal students (Chansoneuve, 2005). Children were taken away from their families and reserves and put in these schools whereby they were taught shame and rejection for everything about their heritage, including their ancestors, families, languages, beliefs and cultural traditions.
Many of these students were not only disconnected from their families but also sexually and physically abused and often by multiple authoritative figures and many for a long duration of their stay. The Aboriginal Healing foundation classified the cultural disconnection, cultural shame and trauma as a cultural genocide. The unresolved trauma and exploitation that occurred in these schools has now directly contributed to the problems that Aboriginal people face today.
In 1845 the Canadian government proposed a report to the legislative assembly of Upper Canada that recommended that boarding schools be set up to educate Indian children across Canada (Chansoneuve, 2005). The superintendent of Indian affairs agreed but also suggested that there be a partnership between the government and the church to create a schooling system of a religious nature. However, it was not until 1863 that the first Roman Catholic residential school were to be established at St. Mary’s Mission in British Columbia by Oblate Father Florimond Gendre.
In 1879 Nicholas Flood Davin was sent to the United States by Prime Minister John A. Macdonald to investigate and report on Indian industrial training schools. Within his report he recommended that funding off-reserve boarding schools to teach children the skills needed in the modern Canadian economy and the government to therefore consider boarding schools rather than day schools. He classified them as residential schools, and deemed them to be more successful because they could completely remove the children from their “evil surroundings” (Barnes, Cole & Josefowitz, 2006).
From then on until 1969, the partnership between the government of Canada and the churches continued in all provinces except New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island. Conversely, the last residential school in Canada did not close until 1996, and it was not until then that the government of Canada assumed all responsibility for the schools and the intergenerational trauma they produced. The aggressive assimilation of the residential schools would remove Aboriginal children from their homes because the government felt that children were easier to mould and prepare for mainstream society than adults.
In 1920, Canada amended the Indian Act, making it obligatory for Aboriginal parents to send their children between the ages of seven and fifteen years who is physically able to Indian residential schools (Joseph, 2002). Attendance was mandatory and by 1931 80 schools were in operation across Canada and about 150,000 Aboriginal, Inuit, and Metis children had been removed from their communities and forced to reject and disconnect from their heritage (CBC News, June 14, 2010).
Overall 130 schools were established across the country between the 19th century until 1996, where native children were discouraged from speaking their first language and practicing their native traditions and if caught would experience severe punishment (CBC News, June 14, 2010). The cultural racism of the Residential School era resulted in the legacy of cultural harm, which is the breakdown of the spiritual, moral, physical, and emotional health and fabric of Indigenous people (Fontaine, 2002).
Not only was there a negative intergenerational impact on Aboriginal peoples but also in the early 1900’s the death rate of Indigenous children at these schools was a high seventy five percent (Fontaine, 2002). Many Aboriginal therapists and frontline workers describe the abuse that took place within the residential schools as ritualized abuse such as repeated, systematic, sadistic and humiliating trauma to the physical, spiritual and/or emotional health of a person that may utilize techniques such as conditioning, mind control, degradation, omnipotence and torture (Chansonneuve, 2005).
In addition to the contemporary trauma caused by ritualized abuse, Indigenous children suffered sexual and physical abuse. Many survivors as high as 50% of them, do not remember the abuse until years after it has occurred and something in adulthood triggers the memory. The constant abuse and dehumanizing Aboriginal people faced has lead to several negative impacts in the present time.
Many suffer from alcohol and substance abuse, sexual and physical abuse at home or within the community, poverty, discrimination and in some instances Indigenous people who have been affected by the residential schools have committed suicide. Psychological and emotional abuses were constant: shaming by public beatings of naked children, vilification of native culture, constant racism, public strip and genital searches, withholding presents and letters from family, locking children in closets and cages, segregation of sexes, separation of brothers and sisters, proscription of native languages and spirituality. Schissel & Wotherspoon, 2003). In addition, the schools were places of severe physical and sexual violence such as sexual assaults, forced abortions of staff-impregnated girls, needles were inserted into the tongue for speaking a native language, burning, scalding, beating until unconsciousness and/or inflicting permanent injury (Schissel & Wotherspoon, 2003).
Children attending residential schools across Canada also endured electrical shock, force-feeding of their own vomit when they were sick, exposure to freezing outside temperatures, withholding of medical attention when needed, shaved heads which was classified as a cultural and social violation, starvation as a punishment, forced labour in unsafe work situations, intentional contamination with diseased blankets, insufficient food for basic nutrition and/or spoiled food.
Reports have estimated that as many as 60% of the students died as a result of illness, beatings, attempts to escape, or suicide while in the schools (Joseph, 2002). According to Edwards et al two thirds of the last generation to attend residential schools has not survived because many fell victim to violence, accidents, addictions and suicide (Edwards, Smith & Varcoe, 2005). Today the children and grandchildren of those who attended residential schools live with the same legacy of broken families, lost culture and broken spirit because of the discrimination and trauma they are faced with every day.
Many families have become caught in the downward spiral of addiction, violence and poverty. Several individuals have described leaving home as a preteen or teenager to escape the chaos and interpersonal violence in their family, home and community. Several individuals have had to drop out of school to look for work, whereby they only find unskilled or seasonal jobs and inadequate housing (Edwards et al, 2005).
Nowadays many aboriginal parents who suffered from the residential schools have a hard time being interested in their children’s education because of the violence and abuse that had taken place but also the poor curriculum they were taught (Barnes, Cole, & Josefowitz, 2006). A positive relationship between families and schools is now understood to support the growth and development of students academically, behaviourally and socially (Barnes et al, 2006).
Therefore, aboriginal students are at an increased risk for academic, behavioural and social difficulties because of the degradation their families and communities faced. Without the proper support and understanding of Aboriginal children’s needs when dealing with their education, the downward spiral of poverty, inadequate housing, unemployment, substance and alcohol abuse and overrepresentation in the criminal justice system continues to affect Aboriginal people.
One main similarity between the residential school system and our current system and our society today is the unremitting discrimination towards Aboriginal people. The truancy and dropout rate for Aboriginal students is high because early school leaving is commonly associated with a long process of student disengagement associated with unfavourable school experiences (Barnes et al, 2006).
The residential school system stands as a reminder of the long-term impacts of school policy, funding, staffing and staff training on students’ education and later life prospects because without adequate resources the intergenerational impacts of residential schools will continue to have negative effects on Aboriginal families and communities (Barnes et al, 2006). The intergenerational impacts of the residential school system such as alcoholism, poverty and violence has lead to an overrepresentation of Aboriginal people in the criminal justice system.
Resources are needed in communities to cope with addictions, domestic violence, but also crime prevention measures must be taken to eliminate and reduce poverty and other causes of crime. It has been acknowledged that the legacy of discrimination towards Aboriginal peoples is one of the reasons they are overrepresented in the system and therefore the courts must address this issue when dealing with sentencing. The Gladue decision is an important turning point in the criminal justice system when dealing with Aboriginal offenders.
Healing is an Aboriginal justice principle that is slowly becoming a part of the justice system through the practice of circle sentencing and community based diversion programs. The Gladue case has provided the notion that every judge must take into consideration the healing principle when dealing with Aboriginal offenders, in order to build a bridge between his or her unique personal and community background experiences and criminal justice. Many Aboriginal offenders are survivors of the residential schools or have been influenced by the trauma caused to their family members or community.
The government of Canada imposed section 718. 2 of the Criminal Code of Canada to help sentence Aboriginal offenders because of the harm that they have faced in relation to offenders of other ethnicities. Section 718. 2 is as follows: A court that imposes a sentence shall also take into consideration the following principles: (e) all available sanctions other than imprisonment that are reasonable in the circumstances should be considered for all offenders, with particular attention to the circumstances of Aboriginal offenders. Many of he offences that are committed by Aboriginal peoples today are non-violent offences such as property crime and substance related offences. When dealing with Aboriginal offenders and sentencing judges must take into consideration the history, culture and experiences of discrimination that Indigenous people in Canada have faced, more time must be spent on the sentencing process to ensure a more restorative approach to better heal and rehabilitate the offender and the community and alternatives to incarceration must be taken into consideration to help the offender, victim, families and communities heal (McCaslin, 2005).
On the other hand, the criminal justice system personnel have also begun to recognize the number of Aboriginal offenders who suffer from FASD and how the “mentally disordered offender” with FASD creates particular problems for the assumption by the legal system of innocence until proven guilty. For example offenders may plead guilty as a part of a plea bargaining however they do not understand that they legal process or do not feel as though did committed an illegal offence.
Therefore the mens rea is not present if the offender genuinely felt as though they did nothing wrong because they could not understand the consequences due to a mental illness. The Canadian government has taken responsibility for the systematic discrimination that took place within the residential schools and the trauma and intergenerational impacts that has occurred. In 2007, the federal government formalized a $1. 9-billion compensation package for those who were forced to attend residential schools (CBC News, June 14, 2010).
Common Experience Payments were made available to all residential schools students who were alive as of May 30, 2005. Former students were eligible for $10,000 for the first year or part of a year they attended school, plus $3,000 for each subsequent year (CBC News, June 14, 2010). Remaining money from the $1. 9-billion compensation package was to be given to foundations that support learning needs of current Aboriginal students.
As of April 15, 2010 a reported $1. 55 billion had been paid which represented 75,800 cases in Canada (CBC News, June 14, 2010). Other than compensation apologies were made through the Catholic Church which oversaw three-quarters of Canadian residential schools. Appologies were also made by the Canadian government, Pope Benedict XVI, Archbishop Michael Peers on behalf of the Anglican Church, the Presbyterian Church and the United Church of Canada.
In conclusion, no matter how much compensation is paid or however many apologies are made it does not make up for the trauma, suffering, and systematic discrimination that Aboriginal people have faced because of the residential schools which has lead to alcoholism and substance abuse, poverty, inadequate housing, inadequate education and unemployment and this disconnection with their culture and community. References Barnes, R. (2006).
Residential Schools: Impact on Aboriginal Student’s Academic and Cognitive Development. Canadian Journal of School Psychology, 21 (1/2), 18-32. * An academic article that describes the affects of poor curriculum, lack of resources, lack parental involvement in education, and discrimination within the residential schools system. Bracken, D. C. (2008). Canada’s Aboriginal People, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome & the Criminal Justice System. British Journal of Community Justice, 21-33. An academic article that describes the relationship between FASD, Aboriginal offenders and the Criminal Justice System in Canada and how it may lead to and effect guilty pleas CBC News (2010, June, 14). A History of Residential Schools in Canada. CBC News Canada. Retrieved from: http://www. cbc. ca/news/canada/story/2008/05/16/f-faqs-residential-schools. html * Depicts the history of residential schools in Canada and the steps Canada has taken to heal the relationship between the government and Aboriginal people.
Chansonneuve, D. (2005). Reclaiming Connections: Understanding Residential School Trauma Among Aboriginal People. Ottawa: Aboriginal Healing Foundation. * Provides a timeline as to when the first residential school was established comparative to the last and the harm that occurred within the schools. Edwards, N. , Smith, D. , & Varcoe, C. (2005). Turning Around the Intergenerational Impact of Residential Schools on Aboriginal People: Implications for Health Policy and Practice. Canadian Journal of Nursing Research, 37 (4), 38-60. An academic journal that acknowledges the intergenerational impacts that the residential school system has produced in terms of health effects and abuse. Fontaine, L. S. (2002). Canadian Residential Schools: The Legacy of Cultural Harm. Indigenous Law Bulletin, 5 (17), 4. * An article that goes through the history of the Canadian residential schools and the cultural harm that was produced in terms of first, second and third generational impacts. Joseph, R. (2002, March). Indian Residential School Survivors Society. Retrieved from: http://www. irsss. a/index-new. html * A website that goes over the history of residential schools and the current resources provided for the survivors of the systematic discrimination and abuse. LaPrarie, C. (1990). The Role of Sentencing in the Over-representation of Aboriginal People in Correctional Institutions. Canadian Journal of Criminology, 32, 429-440. * An academic journal which goes through the reasonings behind overrepresentation of Aboriginal peoples in the criminal justice system in relation to the influence of residential schools and an increased crime rate.
McCaslin, W. (2005) Justice as Healing: Indigenous Ways. Canada: Living Justice Press * Reading on pages 280-296 which deals with restorative justice and the sentencing of Aboriginal offenders in relation to the Gladue case. Schissel, B. & Wotherspoon, T. (2003). The Legacy of School for Aboriginal People: Education, Oppression & Emancipation. Canada: Oxford University Press * A book about the negative influences of residential schools and the determinants of successful schooling. Also