“They Were Not Forced”

1619 Project Aboriginals Brian Giesbrecht Canada History Debates History Wars Indian Residential Schools Indigenous Kamloops Nina Green Politically Corrective History Politics & Government Public History Thomas Flanagan

The claim that 150,000 status Indian[1] children were 'forced' to attend residential schools is misleading at best.


By Nina Green, Brian Giesbrecht, and Tom Flanagan


Part 1

IN HIS RESIDENTIAL schools apology in 2008,[2] Prime Minister Stephen Harper stated that residential schools separated over 150,000 native children[3] from their families and communities. Since then, the world has been told that these children were “forcibly” taken from their homes.[4] Cree artist Kent Monkman depicted an extreme impression of this version of Canadian history in his 2017 painting, The Scream.[5] In a violent mêlée priests, nuns, and armed Mounties in red serge tear young children, some of them partially naked, away from their terrified mothers. Of course no such scene actually took place; rather, the painting instills a visceral revulsion against the imagined perpetrators.

Truth and Reconciliation Commissioner Marie Wilson went even further, stating in 2015 that children were never seen again, and lie buried in unmarked graves:


Parents had their children ripped out of their arms, taken to a distant and unknown place never to be seen again, buried in an unmarked grave, long ago forgotten and overgrown.[6]


The implication is two-fold: that every school-age status Indian child attended a residential school, and that every status Indian parent who sent his or her child to a residential school did so under duress.


What Is the Reality?

The claim that 150,000 status Indian children were forced to attend cannot be substantiated. Historical records including amendments to the Indian Act and regulations, Department of Indian Affairs Annual Reports, hundreds of applications for admission signed by status Indian parents,[7] census data, chronicles kept by the religious orders who operated the schools, and the official report of the RCMP on its involvement in residential schools,[8] all tell a story which differs substantially from the claim that every status Indian parent who sent a child to a residential school did so under duress. 


“There is no evidence that any child was taken and forced to go to boarding school for non-attendance at day-school.”


Early Indian Leaders

In the 18th and 19th centuries, Indian leaders strongly supported the education of status Indian children in both day schools on the reserves and residential schools.

As early as 1785, Chief Joseph Brant and his son John were involved in the establishment of schools in eastern Canada:


Chief Thayendanegea (Captain Joseph Brant) had secured a site for his people on the Grand river, and in 1785 had arranged for a church and a school at the Mohawk village. [The school] flourished for several years, part of the time under the management of an Indian master. In 1813, likely due to the disturbances caused by the invasion of Canada, the school was closed. John Brant, principal Chief of the Six Nations, youngest and worthy son of his father. … visited England in 1822, one of his requests being the establishment of an Indian school. He returned to Grand river and, in 1824, a school was started with twenty-one pupils.[9]


In the prairies provinces, Treaties 1 to 7, negotiated in the 1870s only a few years after Confederation, included provisions for education[10] included at the request of the Indians.[11] Chronicles kept by the religious orders who operated the residential schools in those provinces show how these negotiated provisions for education worked out in practice. The chronicles contain many entries demonstrating that Indian leaders supported education, and that there was a close ongoing relationship between Indian leaders and the residential schools. See, for example, this early entry for the Immaculate Conception boarding school on the Blood Reserve in Alberta:


Great meeting of the Indians at which several Chiefs spoke on the subject of their children being put in the residential school. Great banquet for the Indians in the children's refectory; nearly 200 people had dinner. With the help of the Sisters of the Hospital we had prepared abundant food for the occasion. All were satisfied. (Feb. 9, 1898)[12]


In British Columbia, the Kamloops Indian Band requested that a school be “established among them” in 1885.[13] A residential school opened five years later under the auspices of Chief Louis Clexlixqen:


Louis consistently supported education: he had encouraged Shuswap children to attend the residential school at the Okanagan mission in the late 1860s, assisted the Oblates in establishing a day-school on the Kamloops Reserve in 1880, and initiated the residential school built there in 1890.[14]


According to the Department of Indian Affairs Annual Report for 1890:


The [Kamloops Band] are much elated at having the industrial school on their reserve, and were arrangements made for the accommodation and support of more scholars, the present number might easily be quadrupled.[15]


It is clear from these examples that early Indian leaders appreciated the value of education and participated with the federal government and the churches in making education available to their children.


Thus, a decade before the federal government first enacted legislation in 1894 mandating compulsory education for status Indian children, day schools and residential schools were flourishing across Canada. The Department of Indian Affairs Annual Report for 1883 tabulates returns from 138 day and residential schools with an enrolment of 4,394 children.[16]


Compulsory Attendance

At the time of these early developments in Indian education, the idea of universal public schooling for all Canadian children took hold. Prince Edward Island led the way in 1852, and other provinces followed, but school attendance remained sporadic, largely because at the end of the 19th century 70% of Canadians still lived in rural areas where “the needs of the farm often dictated the frequency and timing of school attendance.” In 1900 the average daily attendance rate in the general population for children enrolled in school was only 61%, and many left school at nine or ten years of age to enter the workforce.

Educators and politicians argued that legislation mandating compulsory attendance was the solution to the problem, and in 1871 Ontario introduced laws which obliged parents, on pain of a fine, to send their children aged seven to twelve to school for at least four months a year. B.C. followed suit, enacting legislation in 1873 requiring parents to send children between the ages of seven and fourteen to school, although the duration of the school term was left to the discretion of local trustees. By 1910, most provinces had introduced compulsory school legislation for children who fell under their jurisdiction.[17]


1894 Amendments

With compulsory schooling becoming the norm across Canada, the federal government amended the Indian Act in 1894 to mandate attendance for status Indian children as well:[18]

  1. The Indian Act is hereby amended by adding the following sections thereto:--
  1. The Governor in Council may make regulations, either general or affecting the Indians of any province or of any named band, to secure the compulsory attendance of children at school.
  1. Such regulations, in addition to any other provisions deemed expedient, may provide for the arrest and conveyance to school, and detention there, of truant children and of children who are prevented by their parents or guardians from attending: and such regulations may provide for the punishment, upon summary conviction, by fine or imprisonment, or both, of parents and guardians, or persons having the charge of children, who fail, refuse or neglect to cause such children to attend school.
  1. The Governor in Council may establish an industrial school or a boarding school for Indians, or may declare any existing Indian school to be such industrial school or boarding school for the purposes of this section.
  1. The Governor in Council may make regulations, which shall have the force of law, for the committal by justices or Indian agents of children of Indian blood under the age of sixteen years to such industrial school or boarding school, there to be kept, cared for and educated for a period not extending beyond the time at which such children shall reach the age of eighteen years.[19]


Although on the surface the 1894 amendments appear to establish industrial and boarding schools (later called residential schools), and to mandate attendance for all status Indian children, as well as to provide for the arrest and conveyance to school of truant children and the punishment of their parents by fine or imprisonment, in actuality the amendments merely empowered the Governor in Council to make regulations to that effect.


1894 Regulations

Regulations were duly published[20] on Nov. 10, 1894. They required status Indian parents to send children 7 to 16 years of age to a day school on the reserve, if there was one,[21] for the full school year on pain of a fine of not more than $2.00 or imprisonment not exceeding 10 days, or both.[22] Indian Agents were authorized to appoint truant officers on each reserve[23] who were “invested with police powers” to enforce attendance at day schools under the direction of the Agent, and to make complaints before a Justice of the Peace against the parents of truant children.[24]

Section 8 of the regulations designated 23 existing schools as industrial schools and another 18 as boarding schools,[25] and s. 9 authorized an Indian Agent or Justice of the Peace to issue a warrant authorizing the person named in the warrant,[26] after due notice had been given to the parent and a formal inquiry held,[27] to place a child “not being properly cared for or educated”, and whose parent is “unfit or unwilling to provide for the child’s education,” in a boarding or industrial school..[28]

The policy implications of the words “not being properly cared for” and “unfit” are unclear;[29] they suggest the federal government was asserting a child protection jurisdiction[30] over neglected, orphaned or destitute status Indian children, and the authority to commit them to a boarding or industrial school. The wording may have been an implicit recognition of the fact that the 41 mostly church-run boarding and industrial schools designated in the 1894 regulations had already been admitting neglected, orphaned, and destitute status Indian children, including children not yet of school age.[31] Irrespective of the federal government’s policy intent, the wording was short-lived. It was retained in the regulations only until 1920,[32] and never appeared in the Indian Act itself.[33]


Lack of Enforcement

Although s. 137 of the Indian Act empowered the Governor in Council to make regulations to secure the compulsory attendance at school of all status Indian children, it will be noticed that the regulations as printed only mandated that parents send their children to day schools located on the reserves on which they lived:


      1. All Indian children between the ages of seven and sixteen shall attend a day school on the reserve on which they reside for the full term during which the school is open each year, unless excused for the reasons hereinafter mentioned.[34]


And although s. 5 of the regulations authorized Indian Agents to appoint truant officers to enforce attendance at day schools, no truant officers were appointed.

This was because the 1894 regulations were effectively nullified in their entirety by a directive prefacing the printed copies. In the directive, Hayter Reed, Deputy Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs, stated that the regulations were “to be put in force by any agent only after being authorized by the Department of Indian Affairs.”[35] It appears the Department never subsequently authorized any Indian Agent to put the regulations into effect in his Agency, and in consequence no truant officers were appointed, and attendance at day schools was not enforced.

As noted above, the 1894 regulations did not mandate attendance at boarding or industrial schools, although s. 9 did permit the committal of a status Indian child to a boarding or industrial school under exceptional circumstances.  The Department’s complete reluctance to do this is illustrated in extant correspondence. On Dec. 31, 1903, A.W. Neill of the West Coast Agency, apparently under pressure from a “missionary”[36] who wished to have the truant officer commit Indian children to a boarding or industrial school, asked the Department for an interpretation of the regulations.[37] In an interdepartmental letter to Hayter Reed dated Jan. 21, 1904, Martin Bensen commented that “I am not aware that any instructions have been issued to put these Regulations in force in British Columbia.” Moreover with regard to committal of status Indian children to boarding or industrial schools, Bensen warned that “Section 9 confers powers on a Justice of the Peace which are too great and are liable to cause serious trouble if a Principal of a boarding school should get him to act without the authority of the Department.”[38]

On Apr. 22, 1904, H. Martineau of the Touchwood Agency wrote requesting that the regulations be put in force in his Agency to compel parents, since there was no day school on their reserve, to send their children to the Gordon boarding school, which was short of pupils, claiming that “The Principal and myself have used all persuasion with the parents, but without avail.”[39] In a letter to Hayter Reed, Martin Bensen questioned whether the Department “has the power to comply with his request,” and made it clear that in his opinion the 1894 amendments to the Indian Act were never intended to commit status Indian children to industrial or boarding schools except in cases in which parents refused or neglected to send their children to a day school which was available to them on their own reserve. Bensen wrote:


Section 1 of the Regulations provides that all Indian children between the ages of 7 and 16 shall attend a day school on the reserve on which they reside for the full term during which the school is open each year, unless excused for the reasons thereinafter mentioned. There is no day school on this reserve and parents can hardly be said to prevent their children from attending a school which does not exist, and I do not consider that the Act ever contemplated removing the children from their parents, save when they prevent them from attending a day school.[40]


Accordingly, by letter dated Apr. 29, 1904, David Laird, the Indian Commissioner in Winnipeg and the Northwest Territories, advised the agent Martineau that the Department would not comply with his request, and advised him to use other means, including withholding desired provisions, to persuade parents to send their children to the Gordon boarding school:


In answer to your letter of the 20th instant re using compulsion in regard to children’s attendance at boarding schools, I would say that it seems inadvisable in our present circumstances to do so.  However, short of retaining the Indian annuity money, you may withhold from unwilling parents all help that you may have at your disposal, provisions, tea, tobacco, etc.  You are, as a matter of course, expected to use your personal influence and explain the advantages to be derived from attendance to school.[41]


On May 19, 1904, Commissioner Laird wrote to J.D. McLean, Secretary of the Department of Indian Affairs in Ottawa, reiterating that “for the present I do not think it advisable to use any forcible measures”.[42]


McLean then wrote to Agent Martineau on May 27, 1904 stating firmly that “the Department does not consider it advisable to enforce the Regulations for the Compulsory Education of Indian children in your Agency.”[43]

In short, in the view of the Department of Indian Affairs, section 9 of the 1894 regulations existed solely for the purpose of committing children to a boarding or industrial school if there was a day school on the reserve and the parents refused to send their children to that day school. If there was no day school on the reserve, the Department refused to commit children to a boarding or industrial school located off reserve because it was not the Department’s policy to separate children from their parents. Nor was there any pressing need to commit status Indian children to boarding or industrial schools. Although Gordon boarding school was short of students, most boarding and industrial schools were filled to capacity. In fact some status Indian parents preferred boarding and residential schools to day schools, as indicated in a Department of Indian Affairs Annual Report for 1896:


There is no day-school on this reserve, as the Indians prefer sending their children to the industrial or boarding-schools, in which, latterly, a great interest is taken. There are thirty-three children of school age, belonging to the band, of which eighteen are at the Qu'Appelle Industrial-school, and four at the Duck Lake Boarding-school, and the remainder are waiting to be admitted to the Duck Lake Boarding-school as openings occur.[44]


Thus, as a direct result of Department policy, the 1894 regulations apparently remained unenforced in all respects during the 14 years of their existence.


1908 Regulations[45]

On Aug. 6, 1908, the regulations were again amended.[46] The need for amendments had been recognized for several years, and a memorandum dated Jul. 20, 1908[47] indicates that particular attention was paid to correcting overreach in the 1894 regulations, as well as ensuring that parent-child relationships would not be disrupted via excessive powers given to truant officers and school principals.

A potential problem was averted by an amendment to s. 5, which in the 1894 regulations had invested truant officers with police powers. These police powers were eliminated in the 1908 regulations on the ground that they were “very indefinite and probably ultra vires,”[48] and the specific duties and powers of truant officers regarding day schools on the reserves were defined in s. 6:


It shall also be the duty of the Truant Officers to make every effort to see that the children attend school regularly and to arrest and convey to school any child not sick or otherwise lawfully excused from attending school that they may find absent from school during school hours.[49]


Another potential problem involving the authority to commit status Indian children to industrial and boarding schools was also addressed.  S. 9 of the 1894 regulations stated that “on being satisfied that any Indian child between six and sixteen years of age is not being properly cared for or educated,” an Indian Agent or Justice of the Peace could issue a warrant authorizing the person named in the warrant to take the child to a boarding or industrial school. The only safeguard parents had against this was that committal could not take place without four days’ notice to the parent and an inquiry if the parent objected.[50]

As mentioned above, Martin Bensen had warned in 1904 that s. 9 was “liable to cause serious trouble” if a principal were to get a Justice of the Peace to issue a warrant committing a status Indian child to a boarding or industrial school without prior authorization from the Department.[51] S. 9 was accordingly amended in 1908 by the addition of the words “on requisition from the Department of Indian Affairs or from one of its authorized officers.”[52] The Department thus assumed direct control of the committal of status Indian children to boarding or industrial schools. The regulations no longer authorized Indian Agents and Justices of the Peace to commit children unless specifically directed to do so by the Department or its officers.

Two other potential problems involving the authority of  boarding and industrial school principals were also dealt with. In the 1894 regulations, s. 13(2)[53] included school principals among persons to whom a warrant could be addressed for committal purposes. The 1908 regulations excluded principals, and limited the persons to whom such warrants could be addressed to police officers, truant officers, and Department employees:


  1. Any person authorized by warrant under these Regulations to search for and take any child to an industrial or boarding school may enter (if need be by force) any house, building or other place, specified in the warrant and may remove the child therefrom.
(2) The warrant may be addressed to any policeman or constable, or to any Truant Officer appointed under these Regulations, or to any employee of the Department of Indian Affairs.[54]


Entering a home, by force if necessary, could seriously damage relations between the school, the family, the Indian community, and the Department — and the Department was clearly wary of giving an overzealous principal that authority.


“Many boarding and industrial schools, particularly in Ontario, were filled to capacity, and some had waiting lists. They were voluntary.”



The authority of school principals was further limited by an amendment to s. 12. In the 1894 regulations, s. 12 had provided that upon receiving information from a school official that a child had run away from a boarding or industrial school, or had failed to return after temporary leave, an Indian Agent or Justice of the Peace was required to issue a warrant authorizing the person named in the warrant to search for and return the child to the school.[55] The 1908 regulations removed this power from school officials, and gave direct control to the Department. School officials could no longer require warrants to be issued for runaways or non-returnees; Indian Agents and Justices of the Peace were only authorized to issue such warrants when information was provided to them by “an authorized officer of the Department.”[56]

At the same time the Department recognized the stark reality that running away often put children at serious risk of starvation, injury and death, and that the more speedily runaways were apprehended the better. In consequence s. 12 of the 1908 regulations was amended to give all school employees the authority to arrest children without warrant if they were “found in the act of escaping” from a boarding or industrial school, a power school employees had not had under the 1894 regulations:


But notwithstanding anything in this section it shall be competent for any employee of the school, or of the Indian Department, or any constable to arrest without a warrant any child found in the act of escaping from such school and to convey such child to the school from which it escaped.[57]


In short, the Department clearly deemed it inadvisable to have principals involved in either the issuance or the execution of warrants for the committal or return of children to boarding or industrial schools. By taking direct control of the issuance of warrants, the Department ensured that Indian parents would not have their homes searched and their children taken into custody except in the unlikely event that the Department itself considered it necessary to do so, and had explicitly authorized such actions.

The right of parents to contest the committal of their children to boarding or industrial schools was safeguarded in other ways. Both the 1894 and the 1908 regulations provided that if a parent objected within four days of receiving notice, the Indian Agent or Justice of the Peace who had issued the warrant of committal was required to appoint a day for a formal inquiry into the case:


… and may take evidence under oath as to the manner in which the child is being cared for and educated; and, if it be shewn that adequate provision is being made or will be made for the child’s care and education, the child shall be left in the custody of such parent, guardian or other person.[58]


As a further safeguard, the Department retained the overall right to return to parents the custody of a child committed to a boarding or industrial school:


      1. The Superintendent General of Indian Affairs shall have the right, notwithstanding anything in these Regulations contained, to return to the custody of its parent, guardian or other person having the charge or control thereof any child placed in an industrial or boarding school under these Regulations.[59]


Lack of Enforcement

As had been the case with the 1894 regulations, the 1908 regulations provided a legal framework for the enforcement of attendance at day schools and, in exceptional cases directly authorized by the Department of Indian Affairs, for the committal of status Indian children to industrial or boarding schools. However extant correspondence indicates that once again, for lack of enforcement, in practical terms the 1908 regulations were as ineffective as the 1894 regulations had been.

There appears to be no evidence that Indian Agents exercised their authority to appoint truant officers on the reserves under s. 5 of the regulations, nor is there evidence that the Department exercised its authority under s. 9 to require an Indian Agent or Justice of the Peace to undertake investigations which would have resulted in the committal of a status Indian child to a boarding or industrial school.

In fact, extant correspondence indicates that the Department declined to legally enforce the 1908 regulations at all.  On Mar. 15, 1909, C.C. Calverley, the Indian Agent at Norway House, wrote asking to what extent the Department wished the regulations to be enforced in his Agency,[60] and was advised that “unless specially instructed, the Department does not wish you to put these regulations in force in any instance,” although it would be well to “acquaint the Indians with their nature and point out to them what is expected in respect to the education of their children.”[61]

Similarly, on Feb. 20, 1909, Urban Verreau, the Indian Agent in Edmonton, complained to the Department that there were 75 children on the reserves of his Agency who were not attending school.[62] In a reply on Apr. 3, Secretary McLean urged the Agent to use greater persuasive efforts, stating explicitly that “it is not the policy of the Department to use compulsion for the purpose of placing children in industrial or boarding schools, except in cases provided for in the Regulations.”[63]

On Feb. 22, 1909, W.E.S. James, a missionary at Paul’s Reserve, wrote to Frank Oliver, Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs, saying he understood Mr. Oliver to be in favour of “making attendance at the Industrial Schools of the Indians compulsory for all Indians between the ages of 6 and 19.” Mr James strongly supported this course of action, since of twenty school-age children on Paul’s Reserve, only four were in school, and although the others wanted to attend, and in some cases their parents were agreeable, “the grand-mothers refuse to let them go,” and they are “half clothed, half starved, half sick, running around in the snow ill clad and the majority die before reaching maturity.”[64] On Mar. 19, Secretary McLean curtly replied that Mr James had been “misinformed, as it is not the intention of the Department to compel Indian parents to send their children to boarding or industrial schools with the exception of the cases provided for in the regulations.”[65]


“Enforcement of compulsory attendance under the 1894 and 1908 rules was lax to non-existent.”


In fact, the Department did not enforce attendance at boarding and industrial schools even in cases in which the parent had signed an application for admission. On Nov. 24, 1917, Secretary McLean asked the Deputy Minister of Justice for a legal opinion as to whether an Indian Agent could initiate proceedings under s. 12 of the regulations to force 9-year-old Selina McKay, who had not returned to the Crosby Girls’ Home Industrial School at Port Simpson, B.C., after the holidays, to return to the school.[66] On Feb. 4, 1918 the Deputy Minister advised that s. 12 applied only to children who had been apprehended and committed under s. 9, not to children who had been admitted voluntarily via an application for admission signed by a parent.[67] Thus, the regulations could not be used to force Selina McKay’s father to return her to the school.

These examples demonstrate that enforcement of the 1894 and 1908 regulations was lax to non-existent as a result of policy decisions made at the highest levels. The Department was not averse to pressuring parents[68] by withholding desired benefits or advising them of the penalties they faced under the Indian Act if they failed to send their children to day school, but there appears to be no documentary evidence that any status Indian child was apprehended and committed to a boarding or industrial school for non-attendance at a day school on the reserve on which the child resided, which was the sole ground for committal. 

As a result of the Department’s policy of non-enforcement, many day schools on reserves were poorly attended, to the extent that Duncan Campbell Scott, Deputy Superintendent of Indian Affairs, stated in a document[69] in Jan. 1920[70] that the day schools on reserves in the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba were “a failure.”[71]

On the other hand, many boarding and industrial schools, particularly those in Ontario, were filled to capacity, and some even had waiting lists.[72] As Scott made clear, this was the result of a voluntary attendance policy in which status Indian children were admitted on the basis of an application for admission signed by their parents:


Every Indian child who is now in residence at a boarding or industrial school is placed there with the consent of the parents, given in writing. …[73]


This is a far cry from Commissioner Marie Wilson’s claim that status Indian children were ripped from their parents’ arms — a key historic claim by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that has become widespread public belief, repeatedly reinforced by political leaders and media outlets.

In fact, the Department’s handling of the compulsory attendance and committal issues was marked by a judicious balancing of the frustrated complaints of Indian Agents and missionaries against the rights of status Indian parents, by decision-making based on legal opinions, and by an overall exercise of restraint in dealing with the complex problem of ensuring that status Indian children received the benefit of an education without unduly disrupting parent-child relationships.



[1] The term ‘Indian’ is used in this article since measures taken by the federal government pursuant to the Indian Act pertained solely to status Indian parents and children affected by that legislation. 

[2] https://greatcanadianspeeches.ca/2021/02/05/stephen-harper-residential-schools-apology-2008/.

[3] The source of the 150,000 figure has never been identified. Further uncertainty is introduced by Harper’s use of the phrase “native children,” which may include Inuit and Metis children not covered by the Indian Act. A number of non-status Indians, including a significant number of Metis children, attended residential schools, but by definition they could not have been forced to attend as they were not covered by the Indian Act. See Chartrand, Larry N., Tricia E. Logan and Judy D. Daniels, Métis History and Experience and Residential Schools in Canada, Aboriginal Healing Foundation, 2006, p. 67.

[4] https://montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/report-confirms-canada-guilty-of-cultural-genocide-say-aboriginal-leaders/; https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/canadas-residential-schools-were-a-horror/.

[5] https://narrativepainting.net/?p=94.

[6] https://thetyee.ca/News/2015/07/04/The-Gladys-We-Never-Knew/.

[7] https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?op=img&app=microform&id=c-7925-00907.

[8] LeBeuf, Marcel-Eugène, The Role of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police During the Indian Residential School System, Ottawa, 2011. See https://publications.gc.ca/site/eng/9.651577/publication.html.

[9] https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?id=1930a015&op=img&app=indianaffairs.

[10] Carr-Stewart, Sheila, “A Treaty Right to Education,” Canadian Journal of Education / Revue Canadienne de l’éducation, Vol. 26, No. 2, Canadian Society for the Study of Education, 2001, pp. 125–43, https://doi.org/10.2307/1602197. See also https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?op=img&app=microform&id=c-8149-00424.

[11] https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?op=img&app=microform&id=c-8149-00424.

[12] Provincial Archives of Alberta, PR 1971.0220/2462, p. 3.

[13] https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?op=img&app=microform&id=c-8773-00480.

[14] http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/clexlixqen_louis_14E.html.

[15] https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?id=1890a083&op=img&app=indianaffairs.

[16] https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?id=1883a174&op=img&app=indianaffairs.

[17] Oreopoulos, Philip, “Canadian Compulsory School Laws and Their Impact on Educational Attainment and Future Earnings,” Minister of Industry, Ottawa, May 2005, pp. 7-11, https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/11f0019m/11f0019m2005251-eng.pdf.

[18] https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?op=img&app=microform&id=c-8149-004245.

[19] Venne, Sharon Helen, Indian Acts and Amendments 1868-1975, An Indexed Collection, University of Saskatchewan Native Law Centre, 1981, p. 164, https://archive.org/details/indianactsamendm0000cana/page/n4/mode/2up.

[20] https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?op=img&app=microform&id=c-8149-00280.

[21] https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?op=img&app=microform&id=c-8149-00283. [It may be necessary to copy and paste this link into your browser].

[22] https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?op=img&app=microform&id=c-8149-00284

[23] It may have been envisaged that truant officers would be members of the Indian Band on the reserve in question.

[24] https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?op=img&app=microform&id=c-8149-00284.

[25] https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?op=img&app=microform&id=c-8149-00285.

[26] S. 13 provided that the warrant could be addressed to “any policeman or constable, or to any truant officer appointed under these regulations, or to the Principal of any industrial or boarding school, or to any employee of the Department of Indian Affairs”.

[27] An exception was made for Manitoba and the Northwest Territories, where a child could be committed by an Indian Agent or Justice of the Peace without notice.

[28] https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?op=img&app=microform&id=c-8149-00285.

[29] The wording “not being properly cared for” was retained in the 1908 regulations.

[30] The terms “child protection” and “child welfare” are used interchangeably in Canada. The first Child Protection Act was passed in Ontario in 1893; see https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/child-welfare.

[31] “On the 28th we received as a boarder a little orphan girl, 2 years old, adopted by the Superior of the Hospital.” See PAA, PR 1971.0220/2462, p. 8.

[32] https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?op=img&app=microform&id=c-8149-00421.

[33] Venne, supra, p. 179.

[34] https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?op=img&app=microform&id=c-8149-00283.

[35] https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?op=img&app=microform&id=c-8149-00282.

[36] Likely the principal of a boarding or industrial school.

[37] https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?op=img&app=microform&id=c-8149-00290.

[38] https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?op=img&app=microform&id=c-8149-00292.

[39] https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?op=img&app=microform&id=c-8149-00295.

[40] https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?op=img&app=microform&id=c-8149-00296.

[41] https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?op=img&app=microform&id=c-8149-00301.

[42] https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?op=img&app=microform&id=c-8149-00302.

[43] https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?op=img&app=microform&id=c-8149-00303.

[44] https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?id=1896a168&op=img&app=indianaffairs.

[45] When the Indian Act was amended in 1906, the former ss. 137 and 138 became ss. 9-11; however there was no change to the compulsory attendance provisions. See Venne, supra, p. 177.

[46] https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?op=img&app=microform&id=c-8149-00365.

[47] https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?op=img&app=microform&id=c-8149-00338.

[48]  https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?op=img&app=microform&id=c-8149-00322.

[49] https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?op=img&app=microform&id=c-8149-00366.

[50] https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?op=img&app=microform&id=c-8149-00285.

[51] https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?op=img&app=microform&id=c-8149-00292.

[52] https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?op=img&app=microform&id=c-8149-00367.

[53] https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?op=img&app=microform&id=c-8149-00286.

[54] https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?op=img&app=microform&id=c-8149-00368.

[55] https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?op=img&app=microform&id=c-8149-00286.

[56] https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?op=img&app=microform&id=c-8149-00367.

[57] https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?op=img&app=microform&id=c-8149-00367.

[58] https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?op=img&app=microform&id=c-8149-00367.

[59] https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?op=img&app=microform&id=c-8149-00368.

[60] https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?op=img&app=microform&id=c-8149-00375.

[61] https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?op=img&app=microform&id=c-8149-00376.

[62] https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?op=img&app=microform&id=c-8149-00370.

[63] https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?op=img&app=microform&id=c-8149-00373.

[64] https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?op=img&app=microform&id=c-8149-00371.

[65] https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?op=img&app=microform&id=c-8149-00372

[66] https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?op=img&app=microform&id=c-8149-00391.

[67] https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?op=img&app=microform&id=c-8149-00392.

[68] https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?op=img&app=microform&id=c-8149-00421.

[69] The nature of the document is unclear. A handwritten note states that it is a copy of a memorandum sent to the Minister regarding amendments to the compulsory attendance provisions of the Indian Act; however it also contains what appear to be the proceedings of a Parliamentary Committee.

[70] https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?op=img&app=microform&id=c-8149-00421.

[71] https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?op=img&app=microform&id=c-8149-00424

[72] https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?op=img&app=microform&id=c-8149-00424.

[73] https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?op=img&app=microform&id=c-8149-00422.


Nina Green is a private reseracher. Brian Giesbrecht is a retired judge of the Provincial Court of Manitoba. Tom Flanagan is professor emeritus of political science in the University of Calgary.




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  • Rick Wadsworth on

    Thank you so much for your research. I wish our politicians would take the time to educate themselves.

  • shelagh brennan on

    having grown up in an area close to the residential schools my memories are much different from those being published. first of all the children of Indian families that stayed in our local school ended up in worse shape than those who attended. The complete needs to come out.

  • jim on

    The parents were home drinking fire water thats why ther kids were taken away , cause they didnt feed them or look after them , kids were left to look after them selves , , still going on in reserves today

  • Jack Morrow on

    The more evidence that is revealed, the more similar it becomes to the allegations in the 1990s that Inuit in the 1950s had been forcibly relocated from Port Harrison (Inukjuak), Quebec to Grise Fjord, N.W.T.

    Bertha Wilson’s Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples hearings in the 1990s, like those of the recent Truth and Reconciliation Commission, were not legal proceedings; witnesses were not under oath to tell the truth (and a fair number didn’t tell the truth), and no cross-examination took place. The “believe the victims” attitude prevailed, but the documentation didn’t at all support the alleged victims’ case. Ben Sivertz, the civil servant responsible for implementing the relocation, was a man of honour and character, but was depicted as a racist instead of as a hero who saved lives. He was still alive, and mounted an excellent defense. Former civil servant Gerard Kenney exposed the fallacious victimhood arguments in his book Arctic Smoke & Mirrors (1994), a book which was apparently unknown to several journalists who promoted the victimhood narrative.

    Unfortunately, the half-truths and untruths prevailed, and became official government policy years later when Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued an official apology, and a cairn was erected as a tribute to the “victims.” The official lie still makes my blood boil.

  • Kenneth Munro on

    We must continue to do research on this issue of schooling and unmarked graves. Hearsay evidence of the nature of schooling and death and burial is certainly not sufficient.

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