1901 - 2000


Department of Indian Affairs receives the "Bryce Report" on the alarming rates of children suffering from disease and dying in the Indian Residential School system

Department of Indian Affairs receives the Bryce Report

In this report, Dr. Peter Henderson Bryce, Canada’s Chief Medical Health Officer, documented the appalling health conditions within residential schools and outlined clear recommendations to prevent unnecessary student deaths.

Dr. Peter Bryce concluded that the appalling conditions in schools were a “national crime . . . the consequence of inadequate government funding, poorly constructed schools, sanitary and ventilation problems, inadequate diet, clothing and medical care.” His recommendations to improve school buildings and sanitary conditions were largely disregarded because of the high costs.

On November 15, 1907, the front page of "The Evening Citizen" newspaper (now called The Ottawa Citizen) included an article on Bryce's report. The title on the front page of the newspaper read: "Schools Aid White Plague - Startling Death Rolls Revealed Among Indians - Absolute Inattention to the Bare Necessities of Health" (Evening Citizen, 1907).

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Under the Indian Act, it becomes mandatory for every Indian child to attend a residential school and illegal for them to attend any other educational institution

Under the Indian Act, it becomes mandatory for every Indian child to attend a residential school

From 1920 to 1948, attendance is compulsory for Aboriginal children between the ages of four and 16.

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Duncan Campbell Scott proposes amendment to the Indian Act that bans Indigenous people from hiring lawyers (without the DIA’s approval) to represent them in land and rights claims


Sept 10 WWII begins and Indigenous men (and later women in 1941) volunteer to fight for Canada


Canadian Troops are sent overseas

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Recruitment for the Cree Code talkers begins

Recruitment for the Cree Code talkers begins

The United States Army Corps and the Canadian Military begin recruiting Cree speakers, already stationed in England, to use the Cree language to disguise Allied communications.

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Nutritional experiments begin on 300 residential school children at Norway House Cree

Widespread experimentation began immediately after the Second World War. The experiments began in Norway House and subsequently expanded to residential schools in Port Alberni, B.C., Kenora, Ont., Shubenacadie, N.S., and Lethbridge, Alta.

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Federal government commissions UBC anthropologist Harry B. Hawthorn to investigate the social conditions of Aboriginal peoples across Canada

Residential school

In his 2-part report, published in 1966 and 1967, A Survey of the Contemporary Indians of Canada: Economic, Political, Educational Needs and Policies, Hawthorn concluded that Aboriginal peoples were Canada’s most disadvantaged and marginalized population. They were “citizens minus.” Hawthorn attributed this situation to years of failed government policy, particularly the residential school system, which left students unprepared for participation in the contemporary economy.

Hawthorn recommended that Aboriginal peoples be considered “citizens plus” and be provided with the opportunities and resources to choose their own lifestyles, whether within reserve communities or elsewhere. He also advocated ending all forced assimilation programs, especially the residential schools.

Hawthorn’s report would give impetus to a series of national Indigenous consultations with the government and the production of the White Paper.


Harry B. Hawthorn’s A Survey of the Contemporary Indians of Canada: Economic, Political, Educational Needs and Policies: Part 1 is published

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Harry B. Hawthorn’s A Survey of the Contemporary Indians of Canada : Economic, Political, Educational Needs and Policies: Part 2 is published

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White Paper issued by Canadian Government

This policy paper proposes ending the special legal relationship between Aboriginal peoples and the Canadian state and dismantling the Indian Act. This white paper is met with forceful opposition from Aboriginal leaders across the country and sparks a new era of Indigenous political organizing in Canada.

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Red Paper is issued and presented to PM Pierre Trudeau by the Indian Association of Alberta in an historic confrontation in the Centre Block on Parliament Hill


Led by Harold Cardinal, the Indian Association of Alberta, backed by the National Indian Brotherhood, present their document, Citizens Plus, to Trudeau and his cabinet. Citizens Plus which becomes popularly known as the Red Paper rejects and offers a counter proposal to the White Paper.


The Aboriginal education system sees an increase in the number of native employees in the school system

Over 34 per cent of staff members have Indian status. This is after the government gives control of the Indian education program to band councils and Indian education committees.


A provincial Task Force on the Educational Needs of Native Peoples hears recommendations from native representatives to increase funding for native control of education through language and cultural programs

A Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development publication reports that 174 federal and 34 provincial schools offer language programs in 23 native languages.


George Manuel proposes drafting an international declaration to uphold and protect the rights of Indigenous peoples worldwide at the Second General Assembly of the World Council of Indigenous Peoples in Sweden

This would eventually become the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP).


Sandra Lovelace, a Maliseet woman from New Brunswick petitions the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) to examine section 12 (1) (b) of the Indian Act

The UNHRC is to examine the section which stripped women of their Indian Status if they married non-status men—to see if it constituted legalized sexual discrimination. The UNHRC finds that section 12 (1) (b) of the Indian Act breaches the human rights of Indigenous women and pressures Canada to change section 12 (1) (b).

The decision is an embarrassment to Canada. As a result of major pressure on the Canadian government to address the discriminatory provisions of the Act.


15 residential schools are still operating in Canada

15 residential schools are still operating in Canada

The Department of Indian Affairs evaluates the schools and creates a series of initiatives. Among them is a plan to make the school administration more culturally aware of the needs of Aboriginal students.


The Constitution Express movement begins.

The movement protests the lack of recognition of Aboriginal rights in the proposed patriation of the Canadian constitution by the Trudeau government— led by George Manuel, then president of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs.


The Indian Act is amended by the passage of Bill C-31to remove discrimination against women, to be consistent with section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms[1], included in the 1982 amendment of the Constitution

Sto:lo Rose Charlie and other women’s rights activists, worked for decades to remove section 12(1)(b) of the Indian Act, which stripped women of their Indian Status if they married non-status men. Her work, with other women activists like Mary Two-Axe Early, led to Bill C-31, which amended the Indian act in June 1985.


The United Church of Canada formally apologizes to Canada's First Nations people


Non-Aboriginal orphans at Mount Cashel Orphanage in Newfoundland make allegations of sexual abuse by Christian Brothers at the school

The case paves the way for litigation for residential school victims.


The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) airs the movie Where the Spirit Lives in the fall of 1989

The movie depicts the struggles of a girl in an unnamed Indian Residential School on the Canadian prairies.


Oka Crisis occurs

The Oka Crisis, also known as the Kanesatake Resistance or the Mohawk Resistance at Kanesatake, was a 78-day standoff (11 July–26 September 1990) between Mohawk protesters, Quebec police, the RCMP and the Canadian Army.


Chief Phil Fontaine discusses his experiences of sexual abuse in Residential School in an interview with Barbara Frum on CBC’s “The Journal”


Phil Fontaine, leader of the Association of Manitoba Chiefs, meets with representatives of the Catholic Church.

He demands that the church acknowledge the physical and sexual abuse suffered by students at residential schools.


Another successful case made by eight survivors from St. Joseph’s school in Williams Lake, against the Catholic Church and the federal government


Nora Bernard, Mi’kmaq activist and residential school survivor, launches lawsuit against the government

Her efforts would turn into the first 1995 class action lawsuit against the government for abuses suffered at residential school.


The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate offers an apology to Canada's First Nations people

Fr. Doug Crosby, President of the Oblate Conference of Canada, issued an apology to the Native people of Canada on behalf of the twelve hundred Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate living and ministering in Canada. Crosby, who had been present during the Oblate 1988 reflections, began the apology by locating his words within Oblate history: the Oblates’ presence in Canada for 150 years; the history of the Americas; 1992 as the 500th Anniversary of Columbus’s arrival; and criticisms of and revelations regarding the Residential Schools.


The federal government establishes the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples by order-in-council on in response to the Oka crisis


The Anglican Church offers an apology to Canada's First Nations people


The Presbyterian Church offers a confession to Canada's First Nations people


Nora Bernard, a Mi’kmaq activist and residential school survivor, files the first Class Action lawsuit against the government of Canada seeking compensation for Residential School Survivors

After Nora files her claim other survivors from other schools in other provinces file similar lawsuits. Eventually these claims join together and the end result is the National Class Action Settlement, the largest class action settlement in Canadian history which will pay compensation to up to 70,000 former Residential School residents.


The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, or RCAP, issues its final report.

One entire chapter is dedicated to residential schools. The 4,000-page document makes 440 recommendations calling for changes in the relationship between aboriginals, non-aboriginals and governments in Canada.

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The Gordon Residential School (the last remaining federally run facility) closes in Saskatchewan


The Blackwater Case begins, titled for the first named plaintiff Willie Blackwater

Thirty survivors from the Alberni Indian Residential School file charges against Arthur Plint, a dorm supervisor who had sexually abused children under his care. In addition to convicting Plint, the court held the federal government and the United Church responsible for the wrongs committed.


The Moderator of the United Church of Canada, the Right Rev. Bill Phipps, issued an “Apology to Former Students of United Church Indian Residential Schools, and to Their Families and Communities”


Phil Fontaine is elected national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, a political organization representing Canada's aboriginal people


The government unveils Gathering Strength: Canada's Aboriginal Action Plan, a long-term, broad-based policy approach in response to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.

It includes the Statement of Reconciliation: Learning from the Past, in which the Government of Canada recognizes and apologizes to those who experienced physical and sexual abuse at Indian residential schools and acknowledges its role in the development and administration of residential schools.


Eight former students of St. George’s Indian Residential School in Lytton, B.C., sue a priest, the government, and the Anglican Church of Canada in Mowatt v. Clarke

Both the Anglican Church and the government admitted fault and agree to a settlement. Hearings are held in Smithers and Vancouver.

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Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development Jane Stewart delivers a written apology to Phil Fontaine (at that time the Grand Chief of the Assembly of First Nations)

It was called a Statement of Reconciliation.


St. Michael's Indian Residential Schools, the last band-run school, closes


The United Church's General Council Executive offers a second apology to the First Nations peoples of Canada for the abuse incurred at residential schools

The litigation list naming the Government of Canada and major Church denominations grows to 7,500.


New York Times reports that Residential School lawsuits threaten to bankrupt four mainstream Christian churches in Canada: Anglican, United Church, Roman Catholic and Presbyterian