Residential schools: Learning from our mistakes to build a healthier future together

April 2013 marked the passage of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee of Canada in Montréal [1]. Established in 2008 following the claims of former Residential School students, the Committee’s purpose is to “turn the page” on past wrongs in order to “build a strong and healthy future”. The fifth of eight national events, the Montréal event welcomed former Residential School students and their families to hear their testimonies in view of shedding light on their experiences and the repercussions on the victims’ families.

It is now acknowledged that Residential Schools had a devastating impact on the health and well-being of generations of Aboriginal individuals, families and communities. These effects persist and are reflected by numerous psychosocial problems experienced in many communities, such as substance abuse, school drop-out, violence, and suicide.

The severity of certain problems demands urgent intervention. Both physical and mental health interventions from health services are necessary, in addition to promotion and prevention campaigns that would help achieve health and well-being. However, in order to properly “turn the page”, it is important to question the organization of health, wellness and social services that could inadvertently repeat the traumas of Indian Residential Schools. This would perpetuate conditions conducive to psychosocial problems and maintain Aboriginal Peoples in a vicious cycle that would affect communities for generations to come. Namely, the act of “evacuating” individuals, especially children or youth, from their community and sending them hundreds of kilometres away from their family and support system to receive care is a common practice in many Aboriginal communities that may, in the medium- and long-term “do more harm than good”.

The present is an introduction for a series of three articles inspired by the efforts of the Commission and the courage of former students that I invite you to read over the coming months.

[1] Commission de vérité et réconciliation à Montréal :


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