Spring 2017


Canada and Residential Schools

Canada’s residential school system stemmed directly from the government’s goal of assimilating all Indigenous peoples. Here is a look at how some government policies and laws launched and sustained the residential system.

  • 1763

    Canadian Laws and Policies Concerning Indigenous Peoples

    A royal proclamation by King George III states that all lands remain property of Indigenous people unless they are either ceded or sold, saying Indigenous people “should not be molested or disturbed" in the quest for territory.

  • 1831

    History of Residential Schools

    The Mohawk Institute becomes Canada’s first school in the residential system, in Brantford, in what is now Ontario.

  • 1844

    Canadian Laws and Policies

    The Bagot Commission recommends assimilating Indigenous people by separating children from their parents.

  • 1867

    Canadian Laws and Policies

    Under the Constitution Act, Indigenous people, the land reserved for them and education become a federal responsibility.

  • 1876

    Canadian Laws and Policies

    The Indian Act establishes who is an “Indian,” and gives the government exclusive rights to create legislation regarding the people and their lands.

  • 1879

    Residential Schools

    The Davin Report calls on the government to establish a boarding school system that separates children from their parents to better “civilize” Indigenous children.

  • 1884

    Canadian Laws and Policies

    An amendment to the Indian Act bans two Indigenous ceremonies, including the potlach. Later amendments outlawed more ceremonies, dances and festivals.

    Residential Schools

    The Indian Advancement Act provides funds for the creation of residential schools to be operated by the government and the churches.

  • 1920

    Residential Schools

    Attendance at residential school becomes mandatory for every Indigenous child aged seven to 15.

  • 1930

    Residential Schools

    At its peak, more than 17,000 students are attending 80 residential schools across the country.

  • 1951

    Canadian Laws and Policies

    Bans on traditional practices and ceremonies are removed.

  • 1955

    Residential Schools

    The federal government expands the residential school system in the North.

  • 1960

    Canadian Laws and Policies

    Status Indians gain the right to vote without giving up their status.

  • 1969

    Residential Schools

    The agreement between the churches and government ends, making the federal government responsible for the remaining schools. A few local bands take control of the schools.

  • 1982

    Canadian Laws and Policies

    An amendment to the Constitution Act recognizes and affirms existing Aboriginal and treaty rights.

  • 1996

    Canadian Laws and Policies

    The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples makes 440 recommendations, including an inquiry into the effects of residential schools.

    Residential Schools

    Gordon Indian Residential School, the last federally run residential school, closes in Punnichy, Sask.

  • 2007

    Canadian Laws and Policies

    The Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, the largest class action settlement in Canadian history at the time, sets aside a multibillion-dollar fund for survivors and funds a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The TRC is officially established in 2008.

  • 2015

    Canadian Laws and Policies

    The TRC releases its final report and 94 calls to action.