Case Study: Residential Schools
Examining the residential school system in Canada between the 1870s and 1996 exposes numerous human rights and civil liberties violations of individuals by the government. This case study involves both de jure discrimination and de facto discrimination experienced by Aboriginals based on their culture. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms specifically protects Aboriginal rights under section 25 and section 15 declares that, “Every individual is equal before and under the law” (Sharpe & Roach, 2009, p. 307). Human rights and civil liberties of Aboriginal children and parents were ignored and violated by residential schools which were fuelled by government policy, agendas of church organizations, and a public desire to assimilate the native population into Canadian society.
Assimilating the aboriginal population into Canadian society was seen as the best solution to eliminating the costs associated with this segment of society receiving funds for being wards of the state. Once the process of shaping students into ideal citizens has been completed, they would be granted full citizenship and automatically enfranchises them. The removal treaty rights and tribe affiliation would mean that the federal government is no longer faced with the financial burden associated with caring for these peoples (Akhtar, 2010, p. 113). Since children have the potential to easily adapt to situations, they are perfect candidates for socialization programs which ease them into society.
When the policy of aggressive civilization was supported by the Canadian government, public funding became available for the residential school project which involved stripping aboriginal children of their culture (Akhtar, 2010, p. 114). Primarily used to socialize individuals and shape them into contributing members of society by introducing new roles, skills, and values to the students (Llewellyn, 2002, p. 257). The programs were put in place as a method of imposing norms on a younger generation that had been deemed fit for transformation (Ibid). This policy resulted in a vulnerable group being removed from their homes and placed into an environment plagued with physical, sexual, emotional, and spiritual abuse. Isolation from all aspects of one’s culture was degrading, isolating, and discouraging.
The implementation of residential schools can be considered an action taken with societies best interests in mind. The policy initially appeared to be free from de jure discrimination since the purpose was to empower the aboriginal population and give them the tools they needed to succeed in a modern society. The abuse suffered by the students did not appear to be an intentional result of the assimilation policy adopted by the government. Policy makers had a desire to create a generation of aboriginals accustomed to the ways of civilized life (Llewellyn, 2002, p. 257). Unfortunately the policy had flaws and experiences in...