The Plight of Canadian First Nations Children. ~ Linda Lewis

Via on Mar 12, 2013

Source: Uploaded by user via Kathi on Pinterest


Of 150,000 First Nations children in Canada, more than 3000 died in the residential school system, which ran from the 1870s until the 1990s.

These shocking findings are the result of the first systematic search of government and school records, and the number is expected to rise as more documents come to light. At least 500 of these victims still remain nameless because it was policy not to report the deaths.

The leading cause of the death of so many native children was disease—especially TB—but malnutrition, fire, drowning, and suicide followed in that order.

Many children were mentally, physically, and sexually abused, and then committed suicide or died of exposure in the frigid North while attempting to flee the schools.

Student deaths were so much a part of the residential school system that architectural plans for many schools included cemeteries laid out in advance.

Native children were forced to attend these residential schools under the federal policy of civilizing aboriginals by disrupting their traditional education. This led to loss of native languages and cultural identities.

In fact, this cultural genocide was still practiced in provinces like Nova Scotia, where only 25 years ago it was illegal even for adult Mi’kmaq natives to gather together in a drum circle!

Today, systematic under-funding (22% less) of child-welfare services on First Nations reserves means that Canadian aboriginals are re-living the residential school nightmare. Because many reserves don’t have the resources to keep children safe when their families are struggling, the children are taken away and sent into institutional care by the thousands.

This is what Shawn Atleo of the Assembly of First Nations told the Canadian human Rights Tribunal in late February. Poverty is now divorcing native children from their families and cultural communities.

Both the Crown and the Conservative government continue to disregard the treaties and constitutional rights of the First Nations. No meaningful dialogue has happened between Harper’s government and the elected Aboriginal leadership.

Tom Mulcair of the New Democrat Party is the only one who has urged Prime Minister Harper to make good on the promises his government made to aboriginal leaders in January 2012; it was then that he voiced a commitment to do better by working in partnership with First Nations.

Furthermore the government issued a Statement of Apology back in 2008, which was delivered by PM Harper, in which he said, “There is no place in Canada for the attitudes that inspired the Indian Residential Schools system to ever prevail again.”

Yet Harper’s government, without consultation and without respect for signed treaties, continues to force legislation (esp. Bill C-45) upon First Nations, Inuit and Metis.

Thus the current Idle No More grassroots movement is an important vehicle to influence not only positive action re: sustainable environment, but also the rights of Canada’s indigenous people and their children, holding Harper to his promises.

Linda Lewis-513Linda Lewis met the Vidyadhara Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche in 1972 and, following Rinpoche’s invitation, immediately moved to Boulder, Colorado to be a part of his young and vital sangha. The predominant themes in her life have been teaching in contemplative schools–Vidya, Naropa, and the Shambhala School in Halifax, Nova Scotia–and studying, practicing, or teaching his Shambhala Buddhadharma wherever she finds herself.


Like elephant enlightened society on Facebook.


Assistant Ed: Olivia Gray/Ed: Bryonie Wise

Facebook is in talks with major corporate media about pulling their content into FB, leaving other sites to wither or pay up if we want to connect with you, our readers. Want to stay connected before the curtain drops?
Sign up for our curated, quality newsletters below.

Incorrect source, offensive, or found a typo? Email us (please put title in subject bar of email so we'll be able to fix). Or do you want to write for Elephant?
{Waylon H. Lewis C Enterprises 2015: Use Rights in perpetuity. Ownership remains with author.}

About elephant journal

elephant journal is dedicated to "bringing together those working (and playing) to create enlightened society." We're about anything that helps us to live a good life that's also good for others, and our planet. >>> Founded as a print magazine in 2002, we went national in 2005 and then (because mainstream magazine distribution is wildly inefficient from an eco-responsible point of view) transitioned online in 2009. >>> elephant's been named to 30 top new media lists, and was voted #1 in the US on twitter's Shorty Awards for #green content...two years running. >>> Get involved: > Subscribe to our free Best of the Week e-newsletter. > Follow us on Twitter Fan us on Facebook. > Write: send article or query. > Advertise. > Pay for what you read, help indie journalism survive and thrive—and get your name/business/fave non-profit on every page of Questions? info elephantjournal com


5 Responses to “The Plight of Canadian First Nations Children. ~ Linda Lewis”

  1. ann says:

    Excellent article, Linda…thanks for bringing this tragedy to light.

  2. Linda Lewis Linda V. Lewis says:

    Thanks. I think it's really important to bring awareness to this issue, even if painful, because that's the only way positive change is going to happen. The more people become aware of inequality, the more the government will be forced to right wrongs and uphold promises.

  3. Joanne Bihari says:

    Thank you Linda. Child abuse is a MAJOR problem throughout society. In the reserves, this level of poverty is unacceptable. What can we do to help? Support idle no more and write to MPs? It’s hard to know what to do sometimes…. I used to write to MPS a lot in the uk. Thanks for inspiring me to get back in that habit.

    • Linda Lewis Linda V. Lewis says:

      I have been writing MPs–1/2 turn a blind eye + deaf ear, but the other 1/2 respond positively and actually say something , some little thing at least, about what they are doing to right wrongs and live up to past promises. So it is worth the effort illuminating this subject, bringing it into awareness, and small, provincial improvements are beginning to take place. And your response encourages me to write a 5th article–maybe on the little victories that are being made, like green grass or colt's foot breaking though cement!

  4. Linda Lewis Linda V. Lewis says:

    Update: Acting to protect the environment and its resources as the First Nations of both New Brunswick and BC have been doing throughout 2013 could herald a new green industrial revolution, if only the provincial governments would listen.
    In BC the First Nations have been protesting the pipeline going westward through their lands; in NB they have been protesting shale gas exploration going through their reserves. Although there is dialogue going on between First Nations and the BC government, if the pipeline goes through, it will be using billions of cubic meters of water to move the dirtiest fuel from the Alberta tar sands, water which so far the tar sands companies have not paid for.
    Meanwhile, the Conservative government in NB is deaf to the native protest even though they have been protesting for months and months along the roads in NB, out in the cold.
    It still seems only the New Democrats and tiny Green Party of Canada articulate the threat of reliance on carbon. What is needed is to galvanize Canadian citizens into action with their native brothers and sisters.
    Canada has the technology–wind turbines and solar power, electric vehicles, sustainable farming and forestry, etc. The fact that these solutions are not being deployed is due to the absence of Canadian leadership; the New Brunswick premier in particular is seduced by Texas oil and thinks fracking is the way to go, ignorant of how fracking poisons well water, has triggered earthquakes in Ohio and other states, and gives a new meaning to WASTEwater.
    The green alternatives are rich in jobs and business opportunities–ones that could lift First Nations out of poverty and benefit all Canadians while preserving the integrity of their lands!

Leave a Reply