The term Métis describes descendants of both Europeans and First Nations people (the Canadian government did not formally recognize the term until the Constitution Act of 1982).
As part of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established. Before its work got under way, Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a public apology on June 11, 2008, on behalf of the Canadian government. The apology is part of the process arranged by the government and the First Nations as parties to the agreement, part of an overall attempt to address the government’s role in the history of the Indian Residential Schools.
World War II brought a new awareness of human rights around the world. After the horrors of the Holocaust came to full light, few people could deny the dangers of racism. The anti-colonial movement was growing stronger around the world, and with the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 by the newly formed United Nations, many turned their attention to the rights of colonized people globally. In Africa, Asia, and the Americas, liberation movements helped bring the plight of millions under European colonialism to public attention.
In the 1990s, residential schools scholars such as James R. Miller and many indigenous leaders began to argue that the efforts of the Canadian government to assimilate the Indigenous Peoples in the residential schools embodied the principle of cultural genocide: assimilation was intended to destroy the Indigenous Peoples as culturally distinct group.
The term Inuit refers broadly to the Arctic indigenous population of Alaska, Canada, and Greenland. Inuit means “people,” and the language they speak is called Inuktitut, though there are regional dialects that are known by slightly different names. Today, the Inuit communities of Canada live in the Inuit Nunangat—loosely defined as “Inuit homeland”—which is divided into four regions.
Anthropologists argue that all societies educate, train, or mentor their sons and daughters. While many do not have formal schools, they can, nevertheless, have an education system that helps younger generations socialize into the norms and expectations of their parents by learning the language, skills, and values needed to become productive members of society. Indigenous societies were no different. First Nations, Métis, and Inuit people had traditions, histories, and teaching systems that reflected their experience and directed their lives. The idea that Western culture was superior and that the Indigenous Peoples needed to be Christianized and civilized came from the biases of Europeans and their unwillingness to appreciate the complex, largely unwritten teaching processes inside indigenous communities.
What action can bring closure to episodes of conflict and mass violation of human rights? What can help create goodwill and trust between groups in the aftermath of such tragic events? Because of the massive lawsuit it faced, the government was almost forced to focus on the Indian Residential Schools, and it set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in 2008 to address those issues. So what is a truth and reconciliation commission? What are its goals?
Duncan Campbell Scott was to run the residential school system at its peak— that is, between 1913 and 1932. Scott was what might be called an extreme assimilationist. As a career civil servant, he was involved in Aboriginal affairs throughout his career (he proposed several amendments to the Indian Act and negotiated one of the major treaties). More importantly, he oversaw the operation of the residential schools.