In the painting by Kent Monkman entitled "The Scream" you can see it all with the R.C.M.P. seizing the children from their homes and handing them over to the priests and nuns while their mothers scream in anguish. How something like this could ever have been allowed to happen is only believable when you realize the high level of racism that exists in this country. No settler Canadian would have ever tolerated such an outrageous trampling of parental rights but it was okay to do this to the Indians.
The Act also provided the federal government with the obligation to provide an education for First Nations people so, in 1883, in partnership with the churches, they began setting up residential schools across the country, with attendance mandatory. The purpose of the schools was to remove the children from the influence of their own families and culture and assimilate them into the dominant Canadian settler culture in order to "kill the Indian in the child." As a result, their hair was cut off, they were forbidden to speak their own language, wear their traditional clothes or keep any Indian objects, they were given new Christian names, and the missionary staff spent a lot of time instilling Christian practices and ideas while denigrating their own spiritual traditions.
Even worse than the fact thousands of children died is that half of these deaths weren't even documented and the school graveyards are filled with nameless crosses. And who ever heard of a school having a graveyard in the first place? The incomplete record keeping didn't even track attendance or scholastic achievement never mind cause of death or the names of the poor unfortunate souls. And the reason the bodies were buried on the school grounds is because the government and churches didn't want to pay for the cost of sending the bodies back to the families.
It took some modern radar mapping technology to uncover the bodies of 215 children at one of these notorious schools, in spite of all the denials from officials who ignored what parents had been trying to tell them for years, and now we can only imagine how many other buried bodies there are across the more than 139 former residential school grounds in Canada. Finally the Canadian public is waking up to the injustices that have been inflicted on First Nations people over our own lifetimes and we are horrified and shamed. The secrecy, complicity, and duplicity of the churches and past governments of all parties must now end and serious restitution and reconciliation begin.