Residential schools: a dark page in Canadian history

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Sad discovery in Kamloops, British Columbia, when a mass grave containing 215 children was found behind an Indigenous residential school. Insights into a dark chapter in Canadian history.

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A most sad and gruesome discovery has been made behind the old Indian Residential School in Kamloops, British Columbia.

What happened?

Indeed, a mass grave of 215 children was found at the end of May 2021. The indigenous community Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc indicated that an expert had used ground penetrating radar to make the sad discovery. Some were only 3 years old, notes chef Rosanne Casimir. According to her, the death of these children, of which we do not know the cause or the date, has never been documented by the management of the boarding school, even if their disappearance was known by members of this community.

For his part, Perry Bellegrade, Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, argued that Canada could no longer escape the dark chapter in its history of residential schools. The recent discovery shook Canadians, but he warns that this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Several flags across the country were at half mast for 215 hours. 215 pairs of shoes were also filed in Kamloops court as a token of remembrance.

What is an aboriginal residential school?

Kamloops Residential School, located on the territory of the Aboriginal community of Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc, was the largest in Canada from 1890 to 1977. It received up to 500 students in the 1950s.

Created and managed by the Catholic Church and then by the federal government, this boarding school that everyone is talking about these days was one of the 140 that lasted in Canada until the end of the 20th century.

The church and the Canadian government, claiming to want to "civilize" native children by instilling Western values in them, removed them from their community and placed them in these residential schools where many of them suffered physical and sexual abuse. Thousands of them died or disappeared, according to the report of a commission of inquiry.

This capsule produced by the team of Maj popularizes all the information necessary for you to understand the dark history of the Indian residential schools in Canada:

Deep wounds

From the cruel fate of these children who died alone, to that of Joyce Echaquan, this 37-year-old Atikamekw mother who died in hospital in tragic circumstances (see the SCOOP guide! #JusticeForJoyce), there is an unfortunate common thread: the dehumanization of Aboriginal peoples as a result of colonialist and racist Canadian policies. The following educational activities will help shed light on the deep wounds that persist between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.



Disciplines and levels targeted

- Geography (1st cycle of secondary school)

  • Indigenous territory

- History and citizenship education (2nd cycle of secondary school)

  • Indigenous claims and recognition of rights

- Ethics and religious culture (2nd cycle of secondary)

  • Themes to be exploited: tolerance and justice

Targeted dimensions of digital competence

  • Harnessing the potential of digital technology for learning
  • Developing and mobilizing information literacy
  • Producing content with digital

Suggested digital tools

  • Paper, Autodesk Sketchbook or Adobe Illustrator Draw
  • Padlet
  • Popplet

Educational intention of the guide

At the end of the readings and activities, students will be able to understand the ins and outs of Indigenous claims and grasp the dynamics of their relations with the Canadian authorities.

Objectives of the activities

  • Watch a video on Aboriginal history and summarize it using a sketchnote or mind map.
  • Learn about native claims and answer a questionnaire to this effect.
  • Create a timeline on various events related to indigenous claims.

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Designed to fill short periods or inspire larger projects, the activities offered in the SCOOP! allow the teacher to approach the subject matter in the program in addition to developing the information literacy and digital skills of the students.

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