In recent months, headlines about the discovery of corpses in unmarked graves in residential school sites have terrified the public in Canada and around the world – but they only capture part of a multigenerational injustice that has been described as a “cultural genocide”.
About 150,000 original children are believed to have attended the state-funded boarding schools, which were mostly run by the Catholic Church. The schools existed for more than a century and were specifically designed to separate children from their families and their culture; last closed in 1
While more than 1,100 bodies have been found so far, many more are expected, after years of work by indigenous communities to force the searches to take place. Some estimates suggest that 15,000 children may have died in schools. Others say the true number can be much higher.
Rachel Humphreys Talking to Barry Kennedy, a survivor from Marieval School, where 751 corpses were found, telling her, “These are my alumni, and I have to speak to make sure this will never happen again.” He describes his experiences at school and how they shaped the rest of his life. And as he considers these memories in the context of the new discoveries, he describes the importance of sticking to cultural traditions that the Canadian state once tried to eradicate.
Humphreys also speaks Leyland Cecco, who has reported on the history of the Guardian. He explains the broader context of attempts to erase original identities – and continued criticism of the Canadian government for not following up on its promises to rectify this historic clock, the impact of which is still deeply felt today.
- If you are in the UK and have been affected by one of the issues raised in this episode or are concerned that a child you know may be at risk of abuse, please contact the National Association for People Abused in Childhood at napac.org .uk or at 0808 801 0331. NSPCC also offers child support at nspcc.org.uk or at 0808 800 5000.
- In Canada, Crisis Services Canada can be contacted at any time at 1,833,456,4566 or via text at 45645 from 16.00-12.00 ET.
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