1880

The Indian Residential Schools system is officially established

Imposing English and French at residential schools has a devastating impact on Indigenous languages and cultures in Canada.

Residential schools for Indigenous children in what is now Canada have existed since the days of New France. In 1880, however, a more formal and comprehensive system was established across Canada by the federal government in partnership with the Christian churches. In 1920, attendance was made compulsory for children aged 7 to 15. The last school closed in 1996.

Indigenous children who attended these boarding schools were taught in either English or in French (sometimes both). Many suffered physical and emotional abuse and lost their ability to speak their native language. Students caught speaking an Indigenous language to each other were often physically punished. Attending a residential school had a multi-generational impact: although some children resisted and held on to their language, many thousands of others were unable to pass their languages on to their own children.