More than 3,000 aboriginal children died at residential schools, often of causes that could have been prevented, and the failures of those responsible for properly safeguarding the students bordered on criminal, according to a special report on the scandal.
In its final report to be released Tuesday, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) provides a detailed account of the known deaths. The recorded figure is 3,201 but the actual number is probably much higher because of incomplete records, and the commission notes the death rate was much higher than among children in Canada’s general population.
Its report documents how the children were buried in gravesites, many unmarked, that were not in their own communities. Today, many of those gravesites sit untended – the final injustice to the children.
“Thousands of Aboriginal children died in residential schools,” says the TRC’s new report. “They were killed by relentless waves of epidemics – tuberculosis and a host of other infectious diseases – that swept repeatedly through the institutions. Those children did not have to die.
“The spread of disease was fed and facilitated by crowded living conditions at the schools, along with a lethal combination of substandard sanitation, poor nutrition, and an appallingly low quality of medical care.”
The commission says that the students were denied access to medical professionals who might have been available or willing to treat them. “In one of the darkest stains on the history of Canada, documents show that the care of Aboriginal children in residential schools was deemed less necessary than that given to white children,” says the report.
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