Brandon, Manitoba Industrial School

December 6th, 2013, 4pm

It was -21°C with few clouds. There was moderate breeze.

Like many young youth in my area, I have visited the old Indian Residential School that was located on Grand Valley Road in Brandon, Manitoba. At the time I did not know all the atrocities and indecencies that had taken place in Residential schools across Canada. I do not know if any type of abuse had happened in the Brandon Residential school, but being forced from your family as a child and having all that you knew stripped from you is abuse in it’s own right. I felt uneasy and an eerie sense of foreboding while exploring the grounds and the school itself. It has since been torn down. I don’t know if there is a monument there or not, but I do think there should be something in remembrance there. A couple years ago I wrote an essay on British Imperialism and the children that were affected by it. This is a small excerpt from my essay about Canadian Indian Residential Schools.

The fur trade in Canada held a strong economic tie between the British Empire and the many Indian tribes of Canada. An essay by Suzanne Fournier and Ernie Crey, Killing The Indian in The Child: Four Centuries of Church-Run Schools, concludes that it was not until after 1812, when British hegemony was established, that the British government intervened with the various tribes allied with the French and British.16 The Indian tribes were not needed when the two main fur trading companies merged and began to employ their own people. By the 1820s the government of Canada felt pressure by the flood of newcomers who demanded that the Indians be neutralized or removed from the land.17 There were political and economic motivations for the colonial government to support religious-run boarding schools.18 By the 1830s, the colonial government of Canada wanted complete assimilation as well. 19 Fournier claims that the church and state merged by convenience: “the churches could harvest souls at government funded schools while meeting the shared mandate to eradicate all that was Indian in the children. The ‘Indian problem’ would cease to exist.”20 It was not until confederation, in 1867, that the new national government was charged under the British North America Act with constitutional responsibility for Indian education. In 1876 The Federal Indian Act declared all Indian children before the law, meaning that they became wards of the crown.21 In 1889 The Indian Affairs department was created and Indian agents across Canada could threaten to withhold money from destitute parents if they did not send their children away. The residential schools were situated far from the reserves, in order to completely remove the Indian child from the “evil surroundings” and be kept “constantly within the circle of civilized conditions”.22

These same kinds of undertakings of assimilation and civilization took place not only in Canada, but also in Australia and to the Maori of New Zealand. The British Empire explored these realms of the ‘New’ world during the same period and the same atrocities were forced upon many Aboriginal people. In June of 2008, Stephen Harper, on behalf of the Canadian government, apologized to the Aboriginal population that suffered in Residential schools. Under the Indian Residential Schools Agreement (IRSAA) there would be compensation in hopes to reconcile with the Aboriginal community. It is the largest class action settlement in Canadian history and includes payment to any people who formerly resided at a recognized residential school. However, the stipulations of being eligible and actually receiving any form of compensation are bewildering. To be eligible one had to be a living survivor as of May 30, 2005. Any family members of a deceased residential school survivor got nothing. Payment was $10 000 the first year, $3 000 for each subsequent year. (This reminds me of Scrip being offered to the Metis of Manitoba in the late 1800s- which was also very difficult to actually receive). More than 90% of Aboriginal people today have been affected in some way by the residential school system. The last of these schools to close was in Saskatchewan in 1996. It is hard to imagine that these schools lasted well into the end of the 20th century.

Fournier, Suzanne and Ernie Crey. “Killing the Indian in the Child, Four Centuries of Church-Run Schools.” In The Indigenous Experience: Global Perspectives, edited by Chris Anderson and Roger C.A. Maaka. 141-149. Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press Inc. 2006.

Hetherington, Penelope. Settlers, Servants and Slaves: Aboriginal and European Children In Nineteenth Century Western Australia. Australia: University of Western Australia Publishing. 2002. photo:

Kelly, Barb and David Wade said thanks.

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Ashleigh Skelton

Stay at home mom of 2 boys and 1 girl...busy, but fun times!

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