The British North America Act establishes Canada as a nation and makes “Indians” wards of the Crown. Inuit are excluded, leaving their status as Indigenous peoples unclear.
In an effort to keep the North from falling under American influence, England transfers all of its land and interests in the High Arctic to Canada. Sovereignty fears would dictate federal policy in the North for decades. Under an economically motivated policy coined by historians as “keeping the Native Native,” northern Indigenous peoples, including Inuit, are to be left as much as possible to their own devices.
The Indian Act is amended. Education is now compulsory for status Indians. Children are forbidden from practising their own language, culture, and spirituality and are forced to learn English, Western culture, and Christianity.
Under J. Lorne Turner, the federal government conducts research into Inuit education for the first time. Turner urges Canada to provide education to Inuit.
The British North America Act now includes “Eskimo [Inuit] inhabitants of Quebec… within Dominion jurisdiction over Indians and lands reserved for Indians.” Inuit become a federal responsibility, including in the areas of education and health.
The American military reports deplorable living and health conditions among Inuit. The story is widely covered by American newspapers. Among the exposés: no education had been offered to Inuit; and Canada had done nothing about rampaging sicknesses amongst Inuit.
The Canadian Social Science Research Board secures the services of Drs. Andrew Moore and G.J. Wherrett. Moore conducts a study on Native education in the North while Wherrett investigates northern Native health. Both men urged that the government increase its program greatly and immediately. Three-quarters of all Native northerners were still without schooling, and the rates for infant deaths and epidemics were extremely high.
The Family Allowance program is introduced nationwide in Canada. The intent behind the Family Allowance program was to improve the health of children, particularly in poor families. For the Department of Health and Welfare Canada, it also meant persuading Inuit to buy southern products such as milk and Pablum as dietary staples, and help stave off starvation and malnourishment. Years later, some Inuit would be threatened with loss of Family Allowance if they did not send their children to residential school.
Wrote R. Quinn Duffy: “When the federal government took over northern education in 1947, it made no attempt to assess the effects of the mission system on the native people’s social, political, and economic welfare. Nor did it try to assess where future educational policies would lead the Native peoples, or how the educational system fitted into the overall structure of development in the North. Instead the federal government adopted an incremental approach.”
S.J. Bailey is sent by the federal government to the Eastern Arctic to gather information on the necessity of, and/or desire for an education system for Inuit. His report was based predominantly on information supplied by non-Inuit informants whom Bailey felt empathized with the needs of Inuit. After consulting with Inuit in and around Chesterfield Inlet, Bailey recorded that Inuit wished to have their children educated; however, the parents preferred a day school with living quarters for a teacher. A residential school was not an option in the view of the vast majority of non-Inuit interviewed. “In discussing this problem, everyone agrees that the establishment of a residential school is NOt [sic] the answer as these children must remain with their parents during the winter months.” Bailey reported that Inuit often left their children for periods of time with relatives while they were out on the land. This custom would facilitate the acceptance of a day school.
A number of residential schools and federal hostels open in the Western Arctic.
Facing external and internal pressures, the policy of “keeping the Native Native” is now deemed by the federal government to be no longer acceptable. Inuit are now to be integrated into mainstream Canadian society.
Canada announces an education plan for both northerners and the Inuit. It was an extension of the late 1940s plan which saw Canada cautiously set up some federal schools, mostly in the Western Arctic.
The Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources is re-established and assumes responsibility for Inuit.
The Minister of the Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources, Jean Lesage, announces a new federal education system for the Northwest Territories and Northern Quebec. Although the Department of Indian Affairs had been administrating a Residential School System in the south since 1879, there was little interest in providing formal education to Inuit. The Department’s jurisdiction over education encompassed all of the Northwest Territories, the Yukon Territory north of the Peel River, the Ungava area of Northern Quebec and the east coast of the Hudson Bay in Quebec.
Early to mid-1960s
Small hostels are built in the Eastern Arctic and Northern Quebec.
Some small hostels in the Western Arctic begin to close.
Responsibility for Inuit education is transferred to the territorial government of the Northwest Territories and the Province of Quebec.
The Western Arctic Claims Settlement Act is passed and covers the Inuvialuit Settlement Region in the Northwest Territories.
The Aboriginal Healing Foundation is established to encourage and support Aboriginal people in building and reinforcing sustainable healing processes that address the legacy of physical and sexual abuse in the Residential School System, including intergenerational impacts.
On April 1, the Nunavut territory and government are established.
The Legacy of Hope Foundation (LHF) is founded. The mandate of the LHF is to educate and raise awareness and understanding of the legacy of residential schools, including its effects and intergenerational impacts on First Nations, Inuit, and Metis, and to support the ongoing healing process of Residential School Survivors.
Nunatsiavut, the first Inuit region to achieve self-government, is established as a result of the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement.
The Government of Canada signs the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement with legal representatives for Survivors, the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit representatives, and church entities.
The Government of Canada issues a Statement of Apology to former students of Indian Residential Schools.
The Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission is established. The Commission’s mandate is to document the truth of Survivors, their families, communities and anyone personally affected by the Indian residential schools legacy. Their mandate is also to inform all Canadians about what happened in these schools so that the Commission can guide and inspire Aboriginal peoples–and all of Canada–in a process of truth and healing on a path leading toward reconciliation and renewed relationships based on mutual understanding and respect.
Pope Benedict XVI expresses “sorrow” about the abuse of residential school students during a private meeting with Phil Fontaine, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations.
Based on research by David King and edited by Heather Igloliorte (2009), with additions by LHF (2013).