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A woman who attended an Indian Day School joins her daughter as they look at the Orange shirts, shoes, flowers and messages on display outside the B.C. legislature in June 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

A woman who attended an Indian Day School joins her daughter as they look at the Orange shirts, shoes, flowers and messages on display outside the B.C. legislature in June 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

Canada’s reckoning with colonialism and education must include Indian Day Schools

Sparked by the locating of hundreds of possible unmarked graves at former Indian Residential Schools across the country, there has been a public reckoning with the ongoing legacies of the residential school system.

Many Canadians are finally coming to terms with the truth that the Canadian government, in co-operation with Christian churches, ran a genocidal school system intended to “kill the Indian in the child” for more than a century.

What most people don’t realize, however, is that Canada’s system of “Indian education” was not limited to residential schools. It also included a vast network of nearly 700 federally funded and church-run Indian Day Schools, which were attended by an estimated 200,000 Indigenous people between 1870 and 2000.

Despite making up a large part of Canada’s system of Indian education, day schools were excluded from the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. A different class action for day schools closes on July 13, 2022, and so far over 150,000 people have been included.

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