Indian Residential Schools – Key Milestones
The Government of Canada began to play a role in the development and administration of Indian Residential Schools in 1874. It operated nearly every school as a joint venture with various religious organizations including Anglican, Presbyterian, United and Roman Catholic churches.
Indian Residential Schools recognized by Canada, and all parties to the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement (legal counsel for former students, legal counsel for the Churches, the Assembly of First Nations, other Aboriginal organizations), are those where children were placed in a residence for the purposes of education by, or under, the authority of the Government of Canada; and, where the Government of Canada was jointly responsible for the operation of the residence and care of the children resident therein.
Some 150,000 Aboriginal children were removed and separated from their families and communities to attend residential schools. There were approximately 133 schools located in every province and territory except Newfoundland, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. While most Indian Residential Schools ceased to operate by the mid-1970s, the last federally-run school closed in 1997.
- The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, in its 1996 report, brought the experiences of former students to national attention.
- In 1998, the Government of Canada announced Gathering Strength, Canada’s Aboriginal Action Plan. The Plan included the establishment of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation and a Statement of Reconciliation.
- In 2001, Indian Residential Schools Resolution Canada was created as a separate department with the mandate to address the legacy of Indian Residential Schools and to manage and resolve claims.
- As the number of cases in litigation grew, the federal government began exploring alternative approaches to address resolution. This resulted in the development of the National Resolution Framework in 2003, which included the Alternative Dispute Resolution models (group and individuals) and a mental health support program administered by Health Canada.
- Approaches such as litigation and Alternative Dispute Resolution proved to be challenging. On May 30, 2005, the Government appointed the Honourable Frank Iacobucci to work with legal counsel for former students, legal counsel for churches and other representatives of former students, including the Assembly of First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations, to conclude an agreement that would address not only cases of abuse but also the broader harms arising from the Indian Residential School experience.
- The day negotiations were initiated, May 30, 2005, the Government also launched an Advance Payment program for eligible former Indian Residential School students who were 65 years of age or older.
- In May 2006, the Government announced the approval by all parties of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRSSA). It is the largest class action settlement in Canadian history.
- In March 2007, the IRSSA received approval from nine courts across Canada. This launched a five month opt-out period in which former students could choose to reject the IRSSA.
- Implementation of the IRSSA began on September 19, 2007.
- The implementation of this historic agreement brings a fair and lasting resolution to the legacy of the Indian Residential Schools. Former students can now benefit from the individual and collective measures provided by the IRSSA:
- A Common Experience Payment for all eligible former students of Indian Residential Schools
- An Independent Assessment Process for claims of sexual or serious physical abuse
- Measures to support healing
- The establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission
- On June 1, 2008 Justice Harry Laforme was appointed Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Claudette Dumont-Smith and Jane Morley were appointed as Commissioners. Justice Laforme resigned on October 20, 2008 and the remaining Commissioners resigned effective June 1, 2009.
- On June 11, 2008 the spiritual leaders of the Anglican, Presbyterian and United Churches, along with representatives of the Roman Catholic Church, the leaders of the five national Aboriginal organizations, and the other signatories of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement were in the House of Commons to hear Prime Minister Stephen Harper offer a Statement of Apology to former students of Indian Residential Schools.
- On July 1, 2009 Justice Murray Sinclair became the new Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, while Chief Wilton Littlechild and Marie Wilson assumed the responsibilities of Commissioners.
- On October 15, 2009, Governor General Michaëlle Jean re-launched the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa.
- From June 16 to 19 2010, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission held their first national event in Winnipeg, Manitoba. At this event, 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
- On January 4, 2011 Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission jointly launched a $20 million commemoration initiative, which provides former students, their families and communities the opportunity to pay tribute to their experiences by acknowledging the impacts of the residential school system.
- From June 28 to July 1, 2011 the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hosted its second National Event in Inuvik, Northwest Territories.
- September 19, 2011 marked the Common Experience Payment application deadline. As per the IRSSA, late applications will be accepted until September 19, 2012 in cases of disability, undue hardship and exceptional circumstances, and must include a written reason for the delay in application.
- From October 26 to 29, 2011 the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hosted its third National Event in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
- On October 27, 2011 the Honourable John Duncan, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development announced that the Government of Canada will commemorate the legacy of Indian Residential Schools through a permanent installation of stained glass artwork in Centre Block on Parliament Hill.
- On January 17, 2012 Minister Duncan announced the extension of the Advocacy and Public Information Program for the 2012-2013 fiscal year with an additional $3 million, giving a total of over $25 million over 6 years. APIP is a contribution funding program that supports the sharing of information to ensure that the Aboriginal community, particularly former students and their families are aware of all aspects of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement and its potential impacts.
- January 24, 2012 marked the historic Crown-First Nations Gathering which built on the Canada-First Nations Joint Action Plan. The Government of Canada committed to work together with First Nations to ensure the momentum coming out of this event continues and to release a progress report by January 24, 2013. Leadership in attendance echoed the Apology as a historic milestone towards reconciliation.
Learn more about the history of Indian Residential Schools, as well as key milestones leading up to the present day, by visiting our online visual presentation in either HTML or Flash.