The legacy and ongoing effects of Canada’s residential schools


June 8, 2021

All of us were devastated to hear the news about the discovery of 215 children’s remains at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia. But for Indigenous Peoples across Turtle Island, this was not a surprise. Indigenous individuals know all too well the abuses they and their family members suffered in residential schools at the hands of the Canadian government and our institutions. Even those children who did make it home alive were robbed of their cultures, languages and family connections.

In our work, we have learned about the intergenerational impact of residential schools, which continue to place Indigenous communities at greater risk for HIV, hepatitis C and poor health outcomes. The last residential school closed in 1996, which serves as a reminder that this is not in the distant past. And to this day, Indigenous people continue to experience discrimination and racism in the healthcare system.

As a non-Indigenous organization in Canada, CATIE acknowledges our own privilege and role in the systems of colonization, and we strive to dismantle them. We are also committed to decolonizing our own work. We support the 94 Calls to Action released by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, and we are committing to responding to the calls addressed to health and education organizations like our own.

CATIE also fully supports the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which enshrines the rights that “constitute the minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the Indigenous Peoples of the world”. Not only does UNDRIP recognize the collective rights of Indigenous Peoples; it also recognizes that States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with Indigenous Peoples through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent be­fore adopting and implementing legislative or ad­ministrative measures that may affect them.

Residential school survivors can access support from the Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419.