Canadian Violations of The Human Rights of Natives


In English class I’ve been working on a project about human rights violations across the world. I picked the human rights violations of the Natives in Canada. I saw it recently in the news, not just once but constantly. On the news they were broadcasting the “breaking news” that a mass grave of Native children was found on the property of a former Canadian residential school. As horrifying as that sounds, the rest of the story gets worse.

Let me start with what a residential school even was and how Native children ended up there. Church missionaries came to Canada from overseas and developed churches and schools across Canada. Their beliefs were that everyone should be Catholic, dress the same as a Catholic, talk the same as a Catholic  and act the same as a Catholic. They thought so strongly of this that they forced Native children under 18 into these Catholic schools now known as residential schools (The Royal Canadian Geographical Society). The schools were intended to teach NAtive children to speak, dress, and act as a Catholic. The school system didn’t have guidelines to follow at the time though. There weren’t children protective rights that if the school were to violate them they would receive punishment or shutdown.

That being said, abuse within the school systems was unfortunately very common. Abuse started right at the arrival of the students where their native names were stripped and replaced with more “modern sounding” names (Weisman). It didn’t stop there though, bed wetting was common with young children within the schools. If they were to soil their underwear they were forced to wear them on their heads for extended periods of time as humiliation (The Royal Canadian Geographical Society).  Not only were they punished for something uncontrollable at that age they were also punished if they were to be heard using their native tongue (language). They could receive punishment as small as being locked in a dark basement all the way up to physical and sexual violance (The Royal Canadian Geographical Society). Abuse wasn’t just physical and sexual though sometimes it could result in death. On some accounts students would die from malnourishment, abuse, and disease. Some students even recall having to dig graves for their fellow classmates (The Royal Canadian Geographical Society).

Residential schools started in the 1800’s and lasted all the way up to the 1990’s with the last one closing in 1997. It’s known that about 150,000 children were brought into residential schools with 3,100 known deaths but that number keeps increasing and is thought to be thousands more (The Royal Canadian Geographical Society). Although Canada’s government has offered compensation of $40,000 to over 50,000 people and waived fees on legalized name changes there is’t much being done. The government lost most native children’s names due to poor documentation and there has been no effort made to look for more children’s bodies who deserve to be returned to their homes. I believe if there was more pressure put on the Canadian government more would be done for the lives lost at the hands of the residential school systems.