Learning about Indian Day Schools

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"The damage from day schools was just as severe as residential schools. The only difference between the day schools and residential schools is that you went home at night."

-Kenneth Deer, as told to Ka’nhehsí:io Deer

"It is not possible to move forward and be whole without also understanding and addressing the cause of language loss, cultural erasure, and harmful cycles in families that impede our well-being."

-Wahéhshon Shiann Whitebean

The History of Indian Day Schools

The Canadian government and the Roman Catholic, Anglican, United, and Presbyterian churches operated nearly 700 Indian Day Schools across Canada, in every province and territory except for Newfoundland. Indian Day Schools operated for over a century, from the 1860s to 1990s. Similarly to residential schools, the purpose of the day schools was to assimilate Indigenous children and erase Indigenous language and culture. Children who attended Indian Day Schools faced verbal, physical, and sexual abuse. Additionally, Indigenous communities were not given a say in the operation and curriculum of the schools. 

During the 1970's, 1980's, and 1990's, the government transferred control of many Indian Day Schools to Indigenous communities. However, the abuse and assimilation perpetuated by Indian Day Schools has greatly contributed to intergenerational trauma, and to cultural and linguistic erasure. 

The Federal Indian Day School Class Action

In 2009, Gary McLean, a survivor of Indian Day Schools, began a class action lawsuit to achieve justice and compensation for Indigenous peoples who were forced to attend the schools. The national class action sought compensation for the harms that former students suffered from attending federally-run Indian Day Schools. In August of 2019, the Federal Court approved a settlement agreement for survivors of the schools. The claims process is ongoing.


Learn More About Indian Day Schools

"For many First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children, the language, culture, and identity losses caused by Day Schooling were traumatic experiences that spanned several generations (White, 2015; Stacey, 2016)."

-Wahéhshon Shiann Whitebean, “Child-Targeted Assimilation: An Oral History of Indian Day School Education in Kahnawà:ke” (pg. 3)

Although there is less public research available on Indian Day Schools than on residential schools, it is important to recognize them as a significant and long-running part of the Canadian government's attempt to assimilate Indigenous peoples. The sources below discuss the history and ongoing effects of Indian Day Schools, with a view towards improving public awareness and education. 

"She Walks About" - Indian Day Schools Research

"In Canada, Day Schools existed over a longer period of time and in greater numbers than Residential Schools (since the early 1600s) and operated with the same colonial intent of erasure of identity and assimilation into Western society as the Residential Schools (Axelrod 1997; Miller, 1996; Raptis 2016).”

-Wahéhshon Shiann Whitebean, "Child-Targeted Assimilation: An Oral History of Indian Day School Education in Kahnawà:ke" (pg. 3)

Wahéhshon Shiann Whitebean is a Kanien’kehá:ka researcher and scholar from Kahnawà:ke, Quebec. Her graduate-level research investigates the impact of Indian Day Schools in Kahnawà:ke. Ms. Whitebean's website, "She Walks About", includes an explanation of Indian Day Schools and their effect on communities, as well as explaining important terminology and introducing Ms. Whitebean's research. 

Learn more about Indian Day Schools through "She Walks About" here

CBC - Indian Day Schools

Ka’nhehsí:io Deer is a journalist who is part of the Kanien’kehá:ka community in Kahnawà:ke, Quebec. As part of her work with CBC Indigenous, Ms. Deer wrote an article which examines the effects of Indian Day Schools in Kahnawà:ke, and how the schools contributed to Canada's cultural and linguistic assimilation of Indigenous peoples. The article also discusses the national class action to compensate survivors of residential schools. 

Read the article here.  

UBC Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre

The Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre 

The Federal Indian Day Schools Class Action

Note: The content on this website is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. 

Support for Survivors of Indian Day Schools

There are organizations that can provide support for Indian Day School survivors and their families, including during the process of filling out claims for the class action. 

Hope for Wellness

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Argyle Community Support Program

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Mental Health Resources by Province

  • Mental Health Help Line: 1-877-303-2642
British Columbia
  • KUU-US Crisis Line: 1-800-588-8717 (First Nations and Indigenous specific)
  • 310– Mental Health: 310-6789 (no area code)
  • Suicide Crisis Line: 1-800-784-2433
  • Manitoba Suicide Prevention and Support Line: 1-877-435-7170
New Brunswick
  • Chimo Helpline: 1-800-667-5005
  • Mental Health Crisis Line: 1-888-737-4668 or 709- 737-4668
Northwest Territories
  • NWT Help Line: 1-800-661-0844
Nova Scotia
  • Mental Health Mobile Crisis Line: 902-429-8167 or 1-888-429-8167
Nunavut and Nunavik
  • Nunavit Kamatsiaqtut Help Line: 867-979-3333 or 1-800-265-3333
  • Talk 4 Healing: 1-855-554-HEAL (4325) (Indigenous Women specific)
  • Mental Health Helpline: 1-866-531-2600
  • The Island Helpline: 1-800-218-2885
  • 24 Hour Crisis Line: 1-800-611-6349
  • Québec Prévention de Suicide et Soutien: 1-833-456-4566 / Text: 45645
  • le Centre de prévention du suicide de Québec (CPSQ): 1-866-APPELLE (277-3553)
  • Distress Support Line: 1-844-533-3030 (7 PM to 12 AM PST)

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