The Indian Residential School system operated in Canada from 1875-1996. For much of this history they forcibly removed Aboriginal children as young as five years old from their families for relocation to distant schools. Often children did not return for many years, and many did not return at all: the mortality rates in some schools at times were over 50%. Students routinely experienced many forms of abuse, including physical, psychological, and sexual abuse, and the effects on survivors of the schools and their home communities were profound. Many returning students had difficulty reintegrating into their communities and passed the abusive behaviours they experienced on to subsequent generations. Even today many communities are working continuously to recover from these effects and from others, such as the loss of language and cultural continuity, that this system produced.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada was established in 2008 in a settlement agreement that derived from the largest class-action suit in Canadian history. The Commission’s mandate is to gather testimony from survivors, gather materials documenting the schools and policies that produced them, and establish means to further educate and inform Canadians about the schools, their history, and their effects, with the intent of contributing to a reconciliation between Aboriginal people and wider Canadian society. The mandate of the Commission expires in 2014.
As part of its operations, the TRC conducts events in communities and urban centres throughout the country, gathering survivor testimony and developing public awareness. The last TRC National Event on the west coast will be held in Vancouver on September 18-21, 2013 (the final closing ceremony will be later in Ottawa).
The University of British Columbia is dedicated to developing a better understanding of Indian Residential School histories, the policies that guided the operations of the schools, and their effects upon individuals and communities, and have been working with the Indian Residential School Survivors Society and Reconciliation Canada to develop meaningful approaches (please visit their websites, and our Indigenous Foundations website, to learn more). We believe that an acknowledgement and understanding of this history is necessary to the development of more functional and productive dialogues about our future that benefit all Canadians. For this reason, the University will be suspending most classes on Wednesday, September 18, 2013 so that students, professors, and other members of the university community may more fully participate in this historic event.
In preparation for the National Event on September 18-21, and the suspension of classes on the 18th, UBC professors, students, and organizations are engaging in a series of events and initiatives. This site is designed to be a place in which visitors can locate information about these events and initiatives, suggest ideas, and connect with others working on similar projects. Please explore, and come back often for updates, and be sure to visit the “Resources” section for information that you may find useful on the Schools and associated issues.