APTN National News
Indian Affairs officials covered-up the abuse of children at residential schools and interfered with police investigations, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) says.
TRC Chair Marie Wilson said the commission found that Indian Affairs was involved in an “accepted system of corruption and cover-up” of abuses committed against Indigenous children who were forced to attend Indian residential schools for over a century.
About 150,000 Indigenous children, or seven generations, attended residential schools over the system’s century long existence.
The TRC released a summary of its final report Tuesday in Ottawa following six years of work that saw it travel to 300 communities and hear from 6,750 survivors.
Wilson said throughout the history of residential schools, the federal government, through the Indian Affairs department, actively worked with church-run residential school officials to keep reports of abuses under-wraps despite inquiries from police agencies.
“The churches running the schools were free to hold their own investigations which rarely led to more than seeking out and accepting the denials of accused school officials,” said Wilson, who spoke during the release of the TRC’s report. “We recorded a number of troubling incidents showing failures to take student’s complaints seriously, failure to take action in the rare instances a school official was convicted, failures to report incidents to the local police or the Department of Indian Affairs.”
Wilson said Indian Affairs also actively interfered in police investigations, including telling accused individuals to flee the province after British Columbia police began probing allegations at the Kuper Island school in 1930.
“Rather than assisting the police, officials from Indian Affairs fired the individuals and told them to flee the province so as to preserve the school’s reputation,” said Wilson.
Wilson said Indian Affairs and residential school officials treated the death of children in their care with equal disregard. Sometimes families were not informed of their children’s death until after they were buried.
“Most of the bodies of the deceased were never sent back to their home communities,” she said. “They were buried at the schools, in cemeteries that have long since been abandoned and forgotten. Their families never had the opportunity to say goodbye.”
It may be impossible to ever learn the true number of children who died in Indian residential schools because many records have been destroyed and deaths were not often properly annotated. TRC concluded at least five per of students at the school died and the number of deaths could be as high as 7,500.
In her speech, Wilson said the public education system had failed to teach Canadian students the truth about residential schools and the Indigenous nations that existed before Canada was created.
“We must understand and acknowledge how deep the history of imperialism and colonialism runs in our society today and what we teach newcomers in Canada. It is not always overt. In fact, it is often so subtle and pervasive that it may escape notice,” said Wilson. “Think about your Canadian history classes. Did the story of Canada begin shortly before Europeans came up the river this city is built on?”
According to Governor General David Johnston and the government of Canada, the answer is yes.
“We draw inspiration from our founders, leaders of courage and audacity. Nearly 150 years ago, they looked beyond narrow self-interest. They faced down incredible challenges—geographic, military, and economic,” said Johnston, during the 2013 Speech from the Throne, which sets the federal government’s mandate for the coming Parliamentary session. “They were undaunted. They dared to seize the moment that history offered. Pioneers, then few in number, reached across a vast continent. They forged an independent country where none would have otherwise existed.”