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Giesbrecht: Day school ‘survivors’ – The Province

July 20, 2018

A class-action lawsuit against the federal government is underway for Indigenous students who attended day schools. It seeks damages for every Indigenous student who attended, an estimated 100,000 such people are alive. The lawsuit could result in a payout of at least $5 billion.

They seek compensation for being forced to attend school and learn English, being subjected to discipline, and, being denied to learn in their native languages. The complaints perfectly describe my own public school education in the 1950s. I too was forced to attend school. Yet, compulsory education was a huge advance, allowing western countries to progress at a hitherto unimaginable rate.

And yes, in the very early years of compulsory schooling, caning was routine — in the 1950s the strap was a regular piece of equipment. I knew that strap quite well. Those methods are no longer employed, but those who went to school in those days can testify that they certainly were used and their use had nothing to do with the racial or ethnic background of the student.

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