By NewsGram Staff Writer
A “cultural genocide” in Canada is believed to have taken the lives of at least 6000 children studying in the residential school system during 1940s-1950s.
The revised death toll came to light after it was revealed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Beverley McLachlin, that Canada had attempted to commit genocide against aboriginal people, reported The Independent.
“The most glaring blemish on the Canadian historic record relates to our treatment of the First Nations that lived here at the time of colonization,” McLachlin said.
According to Justice Murray Sinclair, Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, who is responsible for studying the legacy of the residential schools, the figure is an estimate and the true figure could be much higher.
“We think that we have not uncovered anywhere near what the total would be because the record keeping around that question was very poor. You would have thought they would have concentrated more on keeping track”, Sinclair told CBC.
Sinclair agreed with McLachlin’s assertion that Canada had sustained an “”ethos of exclusion and cultural annihilation”.
The incident dates back to the 19th Century, when the Canadian government developed a policy of aggressive assimilation, advocating education of aboriginal children at church-run residential schools.
According to one estimate, 20 to 40 per cent of aboriginal children who attended the residential schools died shortly after leaving the school.
Most of the children died of malnourishment or disease. Those who attended the schools between the 1940’s and 1950’s were even subjected to science experiments in which they were deprived of basic nutrients and dental care.
“I think as commissioners we have concluded that cultural genocide is probably the best description of what went on here”, McLachlin said, adding further that if anybody tried to do this today, they would easily be subject to prosecution under the genocide convention.