Indian Residential Schools

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A National Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former Residential School students. You can access emotional and crisis referral services. You can also get information on how to get other health supports from the Government of Canada.

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Some 150,000 Aboriginal children were removed and separated from their families and communities to attend residential schools. While most of the 139 Indian Residential Schools ceased to operate by the mid-1970s, the last federally-run school closed in the late 1990s. In May 2006, the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement was approved by all parties the Agreement. The implementation of the Settlement Agreement began in September 2007 with the aim of bringing a fair and lasting resolution to the legacy of the Indian Residential Schools.

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Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement

The implementation of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement began on September 19, 2007. The Settlement Agreement represents the consensus reached between legal counsel for former students, legal counsel for the Churches, the Assembly of First Nations, other Aboriginal organizations and the Government of Canada. The implementation of this historic agreement brings a fair and lasting resolution to the legacy of Indian Residential Schools.

The Settlement Agreement includes five different elements to address the legacy of Indian Residential Schools:

Bringing closure to the legacy of Indian residential schools lies at the heart of reconciliation and a renewal of the relationships between Aboriginal people who attended these schools, their families and communities, and all Canadians.

Apology to former students of Indian Residential Schools

On June 11, 2008, on behalf of the Government of Canada and all Canadians, Prime Minister Stephen Harper stood in the House of Commons to acknowledge the inter-generational damage caused by this policy to former students of Indian Residential Schools, their families and communities; to offer an Apology; and to ask for forgiveness from the Aboriginal peoples of this country for failing them so profoundly. The Apology underlined Canadians' resolve to learn from these tragic events to ensure they will never be repeated.

Videos from the day of the apology to former students of residential schools

Responses from representatives of National Aboriginal organizations

More information

Common Experience Payments

The Common Experience Payment is one of two components of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement that provide financial compensation, along with the Independent Assessment Process.

Applications for the Common Experience Payments are no longer being accepted.

More about Common Experience Payments.

Independent Assessment Process

The Independent Assessment Process (IAP) is a claimant-centered, non-adversarial, out-of-court process for the resolution of claims of sexual abuse, serious physical abuse, and other wrongful acts suffered at Indian Residential Schools. The IAP is one of two components of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRSSA) that provide financial compensation along with the Common Experience Payment (CEP).

Note:

The deadline to apply for the Independent Assessment Process has passed. Applications were accepted until September 19, 2012. The Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement states that no applications will be accepted after this date.

The IAP is the only way a former student may pursue a claim of sexual or serious physical abuse, or other wrongful acts, unless they opted out of the Settlement Agreement. Compensation through the IAP will be paid at 100% by the Government in all cases, following a hearing of the claim by an independent Adjudicator.

Independent Assessment Process claims

There are three categories of claims:

  • Sexual and physical assaults, as particularized in the IAP, which were committed by an adult employee of the residential school or another adult who was lawfully on the premises
  • Sexual or physical assaults, as particularized in the IAP, committed by one student against another at residential school, in which case staff knew or should have known about the abuse; or, in serious sexual abuse cases, where reasonable supervision standards were not in place
  • Any other wrongful act or acts committed by an adult employee or another adult lawfully on the premises where the abuse caused serious psychological consequences for the claimant, as particularized in the IAP.

For detailed information about the Independent Assessment Process visit the Indian Residential Schools Adjudication Secretariat website.

Statistics on implementation of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.

Indian Residential Schools Adjudication Secretariat

The mandate of the Indian Residential Schools Adjudication Secretariat is to implement and administer the Independent Assessment Process (IAP) under the direction of the Chief Adjudicator in an independent, objective and impartial manner. The Secretariat does the paper work and support work to make process go smoothly. They:

  • receive the claims
  • assesses them to see if they are eligible for the process
  • Work with claimants and their lawyers to prepare claims for a hearing.

The Executive Director of the Secretariat reports to the Chief Adjudicator.

Truth and Reconciliation Commission

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) provides those directly or indirectly affected by the legacy of the Indian Residential School system with an opportunity to share their stories and/or experiences.

The Commission has hosted seven national events in different regions across Canada with the goal of engaging the Canadian public, providing education about the history and legacy of the residential schools system and sharing and honouring the experiences of former students and their families.

One of the TRC's functions is to facilitate reconciliation among former students, their families, their communities and all Canadians.

The official mandate of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is found in Schedule "N" of the Settlement Agreement which includes principles that will guide the Commission in its important work.

For detailed information please visit the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Commemoration

Commemoration is a component of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement that supported regional and national activities that honoured, educated, remembered and paid tribute to former Indian residential school (IRS) students, their families and their communities.

Commemoration was jointly managed by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). The TRC's role was to receive and review proposals to ensure they met the program objectives, as set out in Schedule J of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, and to make recommendations to AANDC for funding. AANDC's role was to approve and fund the projects recommended by the TRC, as set out in the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, and ensure compliance with Treasury Board guidelines.

Commemoration objectives

The main objectives of Commemoration were to:

  • Assist in honoring and validating the healing and reconciliation of former students and their families through Commemoration initiatives that address their residential school experience
  • Provide support towards efforts to improve and enhance Aboriginal relationships and between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people
  • Provide an opportunity for former students and their families to support one another and to recognize/celebrate their strengths, courage, resiliency and achievements
  • Contribute to a sense of identity, unity and belonging
  • Promote Aboriginal languages, cultures, and traditional and spiritual values
  • Ensure that the legacy of residential schools and former students and their families' experiences and needs are affirmed
  • Memorialize in a tangible and permanent way the residential school experience.

Commemoration projects

$20 million in funding was set aside by the Government of Canada to fund 144 commemoration projects. The projects recognized individual and family resiliency and achievements, as well as promoted Aboriginal languages, cultures, traditional values and spiritual values. All former students, their families, communities and groups, were eligible to submit a proposal for a regional or national Commemoration project. The distribution of funding was based on the projects recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Promoting reconciliation

The Government of Canada is working to renew the relationship between Aboriginal people and other Canadians, a relationship based on our shared history, respect for each other and a desire to move forward together.

Gestures of reconciliation from the Government of Canada

The Government of Canada continues to promote reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. At each of the TRC's seven national events, the Government of Canada has offered gestures of reconciliation:

Choose a Truth and Reconciliation Commission National Event

Winnipeg, Manitoba – June 2010:
  • The Government of Canada announced its intent to repeal those sections of the Indian Act that allowed for the establishment of Indian residential schools and the removal of children from their homes and communities.

Advocacy and public information program

  • $50,000 through the Advocacy and Public Information Program to northern Aboriginal organizations to support former students' travel to the event.
Inuvik, Northwest Territories – June 2011:
  • Travel for an Inuit elder to present her booklets on traditional Inuit knowledge for living well
  • Funding to print ' Cultivating Canada', the Aboriginal Healing Foundation's third volume on Truth and Reconciliation, for distribution at the event

Advocacy and public information program

  • $800,000 to northern Aboriginal organizations to support former students travel to the event
Halifax, Nova Scotia – October 2011:

Advocacy and public information program

  • $200,000 through the Advocacy and Public Information Program and Health Canada to support travel and accommodations for former students' to attend the event;
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan – June 2012:
  • Funding to the Saskatoon Tribal Council to set up accommodations for survivors in a large campsite at the Wanuskewin Heritage Park, a historic gathering place for Aboriginal people in the region
  • On June 11, 2012, the fourth anniversary of the Prime Minister's Apology, Minister Duncan unveiled the artwork of Métis artist Christi Belcourt, which was selected to be translated into a stained glass window and permanently installed in Parliament to commemorate the legacy of Indian residential schools. Minister Duncan placed an image of the stained glass artwork in the TRC's Bentwood Box.

Advocacy and public information program

  • $150,000 to support former students' travel to the event
Montreal, Quebec – April 2013:
  • $183,000 to support over 120 former students' travel to this event
  • Presentation of the Legacy of Hope Foundation's 100 Years of Loss Edu-kit to the TRC's Bentwood Box

Advocacy and public information program

  • Funded the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Health and Social Services Commission to display the Memoire Rouge exhibit at the event. The exhibit was created by the Huron-Wendat Museum and aims to shed light on the history of the Indian residential schools in Quebec
  • Les Pléiades Associées received funding, through the Commemoration initiative to create a wampum belt, a traditional artifact that represents collective memory and experiences, using artifacts and testimony from former students across various communities in Quebec. AANDC funded the display of the belt at the national event, where it was presented to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Vancouver, British Columbia – September 2013:
  • $271,000 to support former students' travel and accommodations to attend this event. Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada partnered with the BC First Nations Health Authority to distribute these funds to former students
  • Funding for two projects to present at the BC national event:
    • The Ernie Philip Residential School Healing and Reconciliation Society created a documentary entitled "The Story of Dancing Bear", the life journey of Ernie Philip, from his days as a young boy at residential school to his life as a world-class artist named Dancing Bear. The department supported this Commemoration project to attend the national event and distributed copies of the documentary at the Government of Canada booth
    • The Vancouver Aboriginal Community Policing Centre Society's project "Circles of Understanding" provides educational materials and an exhibit to promote awareness of residential schools and their effects on Aboriginal communities
  • Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada's employees, who wok on residential schools issues, presented a written statement on reconciliation and the impacts of the work they do as Canada's representatives in the Independent Assessment Process.
Edmonton, Alberta – March 2014:
  • An art exhibit featuring 26 works of art from AANDC's art collection by 12 Aboriginal artists from Alberta. The exhibit is a partnership between the University of Alberta Museums Enterprise Square Galleries and AANDC.

Advocacy and public information program

  • $330,000 to support former students' travel to the event
  • Funds for Path to Freedom Films Ltd. and Tribal Alliance Productions to host a private film screening and panel discussion on "Older Than America", a film that delves into the lasting impact of Indian residential schools across the United States and Canada. This private screening and panel discussion with leading experts provided City of Edmonton officials and front-line service providers the opportunity to increase their knowledge and gain a better understanding of the intergenerational effects of residential schools
  • Funds for the Urban Society for Aboriginal Youth to reprint a special edition of its New Tribe Magazine for youth on the intergenerational impacts of residential schools
  • Funds for the Native Counseling Services of Alberta and Project of Heart to establish a permanent commemoration exhibit in each province and territory, made using the Project of Heart tiles created by children, youth and elders in schools across the country
  • Funds for the Legacy of Hope Foundation to fabricate and disseminate 1000 additional "100 Years of Loss" educational kits. These educational kits were sent to provincial school districts throughout Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, to support increased awareness and understanding of the legacy of Indian residential schools.

Remembering the past: A window to the future

In October 2012, a stained glass window was installed in the Centre Block on Parliament Hill to serve as a gesture of reconciliation from the Government of Canada and all Canadians and a lasting commemoration of the sad chapter of Indian Residential Schools in Canadian history.

Designed by renowned Métis artist Christi Belcourt, the window commemorates the legacy of Indian residential schools and the Prime Minister’s Apology to former students on behalf of all Canadians.

The window was installed directly above the west entrance to Centre Block, providing a unique opportunity for Parliamentarians and visitors to Parliament to learn about the history of Indian residential schools and Canada’s ongoing reconciliation efforts.

More about Remembering the Past: A Window to the Future.

Health and healing

The Government is committed to a fair and lasting resolution to the legacy of Indian Residential Schools. An important part of this process is working closely with former students, their families, and communities in support of projects that promote healing. Under the terms of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, Health Canada provides mental health and emotional supports through the Resolution Health Support Program.

AANDC continues to support former students in crisis by funding the National Indian Residential School Crisis Line, a national, 24-hour toll-free support service (1-866-925-4419) operated by trained crisis counselors, many of whom are Aboriginal.

Additionally, the Settlement Agreement provided $125 million to the Aboriginal Healing Foundation for community-based healing initiatives.

IRS Resolution Health Support Program

The Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program (IRS RHSP) provides mental health and emotional support services directly to former students and their families as they participate in the different components of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.

The following services are provided:

  • Emotional Support: Resolution health support workers to listen, talk and provide support through all phases of the Settlement Agreement
  • Cultural Support: Elders and/or traditional healers for teachings, ceremonies, dialogue and traditional healing
  • Professional Counseling: Psychologists and social workers that are registered with Health Canada, for individual or family counseling
  • Assistance with transportation may be offered when professional counseling and cultural support services are not locally available.

For more information, please visit Health Canada.

Advocacy and public information program

The Advocacy and Public Information Program (APIP) was a contribution funding program to support the sharing of information and to ensure that Aboriginal communities, particularly former Indian Residential School students and their families, are aware of all aspects of the Settlement Agreement. From 2007 to 2014, over $28 million was fully invested into 165 regional and national projects across Canada. Of these APIP funds, a total of $1.8 million was provided from 2011-2012 to 2013-2014 to support travel and accommodations for former students to attend Truth and Reconciliation Commission national events. The APIP program expired on March 31, 2014.

Objectives

The Advocacy and public information program was launched in 2007-2008 to ensure all efforts were made to reach former Indian residential school students to inform them of benefits available to them under the Settlement Agreement. A special effort was made to communicate to former students located in remote and isolated communities, those in mental health institutions, and those who are homeless or incarcerated. As well, APIP projects promoted healing and reconciliation by helping Canadians to understand the Settlement Agreement and the impact that the legacy of Indian residential schools has had on Aboriginal communities.

In recent years, APIP objectives were expanded to include:

  • Promoting healing and reconciliation among youth and inter-generational survivors.
  • Helping Canadians, particularly Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal youth, to understand the impacts that the legacy of Indian residential schools has had on Aboriginal people and their communities in order to promote the goal of developing new partnerships for the future.
  • Support for former students to attend Truth and Reconciliation Commission national events.

Advocacy and public information projects by year:

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