Foundations of Education


Summarizes the history of residential schooling for Indigenous children in Canada and the education related Calls to Action from The Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Key Concepts

  • residential school system
  • Truth and Reconciliation Commission
  • Calls to Action

The Legacy of Residential Schooling in Canada

The residential school system for Indigenous children and youth was a government-sponsored school system that was run by churches. The stated aim of the residential school system was to educate and convert Indigenous children to Christianity and assimilate them into non-Indigenous Canadian society. In doing so, the residential school system cut children off from having contact with their families, communities, and Indigenous cultures.

About 150 000 children attended over 130 residential schools in Canada from 1831 (when the first residential school opened) to 1996 (when the last residential school closed).

It is estimated that at least 6000 children died while in the care of a residential school. () Many children were maltreated and abused.

In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was mandated to document the residential school system's history and lasting impacts, described Canada's residential school system in its final report as a form of "cultural genocide." ()

Visit the Canadian Encyclopedia website and read either the abbreviated or in-depth entry on the residential school system in Canada.

Then review the education-related Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission below.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission: Calls to Action for Education

CREDIT: The text below is excerpted from: Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. (2015). Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Call to Action. Winnipeg: Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. License: Public domain. URL:
In order to redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission makes the following calls to action…


6. We call upon the Government of Canada to repeal Section 43 of the Criminal Code of Canada.

7. We call upon the federal government to develop with Aboriginal groups a joint strategy to eliminate educational and employment gaps between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians.

8. We call upon the federal government to eliminate the discrepancy in federal education funding for First Nations children being educated on reserves and those First Nations children being educated off reserves.

9. We call upon the federal government to prepare and publish annual reports comparing funding for the education of First Nations children on and off reserves, as well as educational and income attainments of Aboriginal peoples in Canada compared with non-Aboriginal people.

10. We call on the federal government to draft new Aboriginal education legislation with the full participation and informed consent of Aboriginal peoples. The new legislation would include a commitment to sufficient funding and would incorporate the following principles:
i. Providing sufficient funding to close identified educational achievement gaps within one generation.
ii. Improving education attainment levels and success rates.
iii. Developing culturally appropriate curricula.
iv. Protecting the right to Aboriginal languages, including the teaching of Aboriginal languages as credit courses.
v. Enabling parental and community responsibility, control, and accountability, similar to what parents enjoy in public school systems.
vi. Enabling parents to fully participate in the education of their children.
vii. Respecting and honouring Treaty relationships.

11. We call upon the federal government to provide adequate funding to end the backlog of First Nations students seeking a post-secondary education.

12. We call upon the federal, provincial, territorial, and Aboriginal governments to develop culturally appropriate early childhood education programs for Aboriginal families.