Indian Residential Schools

Essay, Aboriginal Futures, Mark DeWolf

Canadians are constantly being told that the Indian residential school system is at the root of the many dysfunctions in Indigenous society today. Alcoholism, violence, poverty and poor educational attainment are all blamed on these schools, the last of which closed in the 1990s.

Here are some myths and some facts:

Myth: residential schools robbed all native kids of their childhoods.

Fact: the average stay was only 4.5 years and the vast majority of aboriginal youth never attended such a school.

Myth: residential schools robbed Indigenous society of their languages and culture.

Fact:  former students of residential schools are nearly twice as likely to have retained more of their language and traditional culture than those who did not attend an IRS institution, and are more likely to provide leadership in preserving that culture, than those who did not attend.

Myth: the harm done to those attending has been passed down to today’s generation.

Fact: the attendance of a grandparent has no effect on a child’s attitudes to school or academic success.

Public policy should be based on evidence, not myth. Let’s get to work solving today’s problems and their real causes.”

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