Canada Liaison

Wanda Boyer, University of Victoria

Last updated March 2016

Protection of Aboriginal Culture in Canada

Starting in the 1870s until 1996, many Aboriginal people in Canada were required to attend residential schools. Over 130 residential schools were located across the country. These schools were established with the aim of eliminating parental involvement in the cultural, spiritual, and intellectual development of Aboriginal children. Thousands of First Nations, Metis, and Inuit children were placed in these schools; many of them were not allowed to speak their mother tongue language or follow their own cultural practices. Although the schools are closed today, the impact on these children has been felt through the generations.

In 2008, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was established to learn the truth about what happened with the First Nations children in the residential schools. The TRC completed its work in 2015. In 2016, it published the following two important documents: Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future: Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action.

As a result of these publications, there were public discussions and apologies across Canada with a call to caring and thoughtful action. The second publication, Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action, seeks action to “redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation” (p. 1) with consideration for child welfare, education, language and culture, health, and justice.

The call to action under the heading of Education notes the importance of protecting Aboriginal languages, supporting the development of “culturally appropriate curricula” developed by Indigenous peoples, and emphasizes the importance of involving community and parents in the education of their children.

These social justice and advocacy documents could prove insightful and empowering to the Association for Childhood Education International community.

For more information:

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada’s homepage:
http://www.trc.ca/websites/trcinstitution/index.php?p=3

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action (June, 2015):
http://www.trc.ca/websites/trcinstitution/File/2015/Findings/Calls_to_Action_English2.pdf

Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future, Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada:
http://www.trc.ca/websites/trcinstitution/File/2015/Findings/Exec_Summary_2015_05_31_web_o.pdf