In a dialogue between an Indigenous parent and Christian religious leader, the Indigenous parent would be dealing with the loss of their child while the religious leader would be convinced that a Christian residential school experience would be the best thing for the child. Which speaker do you most agree with, and why? You may agree with aspects of more than one of the source-based quotes.

Expert Answers

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This is an opinion question, so it is something that you will need to think about and decide. As you decide your opinion, however, a few things you can consider and research include the following.

  • The long-term consequences of residential schools on Indigenous children and communities

    • Many residential school survivors share stories of how their residential school experiences later drove them to addictions. (One example to research would be Richard Wagamese, Ojibway author.)
    • Residential school students were cut off from their Indigenous culture and community.
    • Negative effects of residential school experiences can be seen not just in residential school survivors, but also in their children and grandchildren. There are well-documented generational consequences of the residential school experience.
  • The care children received at residential schools

    • Residential schools had much higher death rates and diseases than the rest of the population.
    • In many residential schools, children were not given adequate food and nourishment.
    • Children were removed from families and institutionalized. Our modern view of child development would argue that a family environment is much healthier for growing children.
    • Children were often victims of physical, sexual, emotional, and spiritual abuse at residential schools. Many children were abused by adults meant to care for them and also by other children.
  • The education children received at residential schools

    • One of the main reasons residential schools were put in place was to educate and assimilate Indigenous children. Some well-meaning teachers truly believed that residential schools would be the best thing for the children. Unfortunately, even their education was not the same quality as the education given to other children. Residential school education was often focused on training children to be manual laborers and domestic workers. After completing a residential school education, many survivors were still not able to assimilate into Western culture and economy. Cut off from both their Indigenous heritage and not fully accepted or equipped for success in non-Indigenous culture, many felt lost and without an identity.

Finally, the underlying issue you need to think about when forming your opinion is this: who should have more right to make decisions about a child? Their own parents or a religious leader promoting residential schools?

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