Lessons from history- residential school mistakes

In 2022 under federal provincial agreements there is a  move to give all children in Canada a place in state – run daycare, at a cost to parents of $10 a day, regardless of parental income.  The merits  cited of this plan are financial, to help parents who use daycare afford it, and empowering, to enable parents to do paid work.  The plan argues that daycare is also good for children, helps them learn useful skills so it is also called ‘early education”.  The plan is touted as good for women, to help them enter careers of their choosing without obstacle of having children to tend, and to help women who want to work at daycares have useful well paid careers there. It is promoted as a win win.

However there is much that the plan ignores. Many parents will not benefit from this plan yet will be obliged to fund it. More seriously, by preferring care away from family to care with family, the plan takes a dangerous step backwards, into an abyss it took a century to climb out of.  It has cost Canada billions to apologize for mistakes made by earlier generations ‘ policy which assumed the state should not just supplement good parenting, but that it was a better parent than the parent.

This paper looks at the past rearing of children in residential schools, day schools, the sixties scoop and foster care, in what is now widely admitted to have been a huge mistake. What can we learn?

Residential schools in Canada were not at all like today’s daycares of course.. They were for indigenous children only, took them away from parents at a  young age for long hours each day and taught them only the language, values and skills of an entirely different culture. The daycare plan of 2022 is not aiming to do that at all.

 And yet, by its structure, and by the financing formula, by its favoring of care away from parents over parental care, it may risk a similar harm.. We can learn however from those mistakes but first we have to acknowledge where the dangers lie..

The residential school system in Canada operating between the 1870s and 1996 put native children in schools of white settler culture. It is now recognized as an affront to the rights of those families. Apologies have been made, lawsuits have led to huge financial settlements for admitted human rights violations. 

Yet here we are in 2022 looking at a national childcare system that would have the state take care of the nation’s young children for long hours and for years, for  much of their childhood. Will this, like the residential school system, become something we later regret? Can we avoid mistakes being repeated?

The residential school system is examined below in itemized sections. Then in italics parallels are studied with the current national daycare plan.

Here are those comparisons:

1 The residential school plan  was designed to face what was deemed inevitable change or to force change.

Inuit, Metis and First Nations people had histories, traditions. Residential schools were set up assuming the old ways of native hunting, fishing and relocating to follow buffalo herds were no longer viable. To face ‘reality’ the schools were to help transition natives to the white culture. It was assumed this was a necessary shift.   Churches and government operated many of the schools.

J. N. Poitras, an Oblate priest, said:

..hunting is a thing of the past for the Bands .. It is a fact of experience that wherever the white people have penetrated, the fur bearing animals have been overrun by lumbermen, prospectors, miners, settlers, etc., who have destroyed the hunting grounds of the Indians [who] as a rule . . . have to have recourse to other means besides hunting to support their families. It will be the case more especially for the growing generation. They will have to earn their living, as the white people, they must be prepared for it and trained from youth. That training they get in our Industrial and Boarding Schools—nowhere else.”

1. daycares as future utopias

Daycare advocacy in 2022 also argues only daycare is consistent with new economic realities, that any other care style is outdated.. It assumes parents  both want paid careers even when their children are young. Therefore it t enables and favors only that lifestyle.  The plan  creates the impression that other care options, parental, grandparent, sitter, nanny are not practical or dependable and that daycare is the ultimate care that should be transitioned into.

 To make this case advocates for daycare for all children use imagery of visionary futures.

The federal 2021 budget for instance said of the plan

            -this will create an economy that works for everyone

            -without access to childcare, parents cannot fully participate in our


            -(daycare is) a plan to secure women’s place in the workforce

            -it enables parents, particularly mothers, to reach their full economic


The plan views the  need of children for care as an obstacleto overcome. The budget says

            -unpaid work cuts into the number of hours that women

            can spend in the paid workforce

            -(women) have overwhelmingly borne the burdens of

            unpaid care work

2. The residential school system was designed to educate and give job related skills for adult life

Before  colonists came, First Nations already educated their young. They taught them their values, customs, skills, generation to generation by stories and demonstrations. Language connected the children to the past and the words used reflected learned wisdom.

Settler culture however believed that these native children were not educated.  The residential school system assumed that real education had to be in skills valued by settlers – literacy, numeracy, job related skills to farm and fit into colonial culture. The residential school designers thought that it was a gift to provide native children with these lessons. So the state and the church designed curriculum lessons, songs, literature, poems, all according to the culture of the colonials. A second goal of the residential schools was to make native people economically self-sufficient.

However this form of education is not admitted to have been a complete denial of the value and dignity of the education these children already had traditionally and of their traditional lifestyles.

2. educate

Daycares claim in 2022 to be centres of early education also.. However since children are born ‘ready to learn’ and always are learning, daycares are only one location where learning occurs. The 2022 childcare plan does not specify testable academic skills to be taught.  The education  claim is left vague and is often about softer skills such as socialization and ‘readiness to learn’ some pre-literacy skills like the alphabet and coloring and counting. The use of scissors and crayons are useful skills but daycares do not own the skills – parents, sitters, grandparents also can teach those skills.

Yet the plan by its funding and name, excludes other care locations from being called ‘care’,  and ignores that any other setting offers early education.

The 2021 fed budget describes plan goals identifying the daycare as ‘best’ and a ‘head start’ over other care styles

            -to offer each and every child the best start in life

            -making sure that everyone has the same access to opportunities

            -to give every Canadian child the same head start

This claim that daycare is better than care elsewhere has been argued for some time.        Here are quotes of other proponents from around 2004.      

            A well-funded child care program will support children to learn, to be successful    and eventually to make a positive contribution  to the community -a Toronto

            childcare article

Our children deserve every opportunity they can get to reach their highest potential “ a 2004 article by Pigott

to ensure that Ontario’s families have the capacity to succeed  a 2004 article by Pigott

It is common for daycare advocates to argue for a robust curriculum at such schools, a standardized regulated curriculum. However for babies, toddlers and young children there are vast developmental differences and in practice they cannot be logically expected to act the same.  Standardized may be antithetical to actual educational needs.

Canada is a huge country. Compulsory swim lessons may be unwise in Inuvit in February.  Napoleon standardized curriculums throughout France and this very loocked in programming led eventually to massive school revolt in the late 1960s to put down a system that had become absolutely top-heavy with administration.

Regimented, standardized daycare programs may sound reassuring to the public, as if all is under control and stable. However the curious mind of a child is not standardized. An elementary school teacher once noted that her students had seen a bat in the playground one day. They were excited. She chose to put aside the lesson plan she had and take them to the library to learn about bats. Would that type of spontaneity be permitted in a standardized setting? 

3.The residential school plan was designed to give parents choices for a better life, and empowerment. In fact it did not do that.

In 1887 Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald said , “The great aim of our legislation has been to do away with the tribal system and assimilate the Indian people in all respects with the other inhabitants of the Dominion as speedily as they are fit to change.” These words suggested he would help First Nations fit in and change, as they felt ready.  However the plan created more pressure than that, and did not empower.  Indigenous peoples in Canada did not even get the right to vote till the 1960s.

3. parental choice illusion in daycare also

The 2022  daycare plan uses terminology of freedom and democracy. However the choices are deceptive.

One choice offered is that every child can live near a daycare and have ‘access’ to it.   There is no talk of ensuring access to parental care, sitters or nannies however, just to daycare.  This then is only a choice to agree with the policy. like giving option of free pizza but no other food.

The second choice is in styles of daycare –  a large group setting or a smaller group setting. They are both  however still daycare not care by the child’s family.

The third choiceis that a person can attend  for drop in, half day or full day care, evenings, weekends or  overnight care. These options all are however to still use the one care style- daycare. They are like offering the one type of pizza in different size slices.

The fourth choice of daycare use itself is deceptive. . The national childcare plan of 2022 does not even fund all daycares.  It excludescare by private independent daycare operators. 

4. The residential school system operated in the language the state favored, English or French. It discouraged and sometimes punished use of the language of the child’s heritage.

One Nova Scotia residential school director said : “Every effort must be made to induce pupils to speak English and to teach them to understand it. Insist on English during even the supervised play. Failure in this means wasted efforts.”

In some schools use of one’s native language led to physical punishment, isolation and humiliation.. Former students reported having had electric shocks or having a needle pushed through their tongues for speaking their language.. It is true that not all missionaries had that view. Many tried to learn the language of the native tribes and some even created an alphabet for it and dictionaries.  However the residential schools did  impose a language.

4. language used at daycare

The federal census of 2016 reported  that 56.0% speak English and 21.4% speak French regularly. 14.23% at home speak another language. In 2022 there  are actually 200 languages spoken in Canada , a rich diversity of cultural, ethnic, dietary practices and religions.  Canada  is a multicultural haven and welcomes immigrants from around the world.

However the daycare plan of 2022 is  in the language of the dominant culture only, as were residential schools. This is out of sync with the nature of the public.

 In Vancouver 8.8% speak Cantonese, 8.0% Punjabi, 7.% Chinese, 5.9^ Urdu, 5.7% Tamil. In Montreal 17% speak Arabic, 15% Spanish. In Calgary there are high numbers of speakers of Punjabi, Tagalag and Chinese and in Ottawa on the Ontario side high numbers of Chinese, Spanish. On the Quebec side in Gatineau there are high numbers of speakers of Arabic, Spanish. Chinese.

The national childcare system of 2022  ignores this diversity.

This is not just a failure to let children speak their language. It is also a failure to let them even learn their mother tongue for they are beginners at it. Preventing developing competence in one’s native tongue is not the intention of daycares. However it may be a consequence. As such it risks violating a child’s right to language .

Declaration on h the Rights of Persons belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious or Linguistic Minorities

Article 4(3)

States should take appropriate measures so that, wherever possible, persons belonging to minorities may have adequate opportunities to learn their mother tongue or to have instruction in their mother tongue

Convention on the Rights of the Child

Article 29 (1)

States Parties agree that the education of the child shall be directed to the development of respect for the child’s parents, his or her own cultural identity, language and values.

In earlier times it may be true that immigrants to Canada wanted to have their children learn the dominant language here, to thrive. However there have always been pockets that retained the home language out of respect. Gaelic was retained in Cape Breton for decades. A new interest in bilingualism has surfaced in Canada. In 2022  particularly in the big cities where immigrant numbers tend to be large enough to have a community there is great interest in maintaining mother tongue. . Many cultural groups set up their own language schools for Filipino or Hebrew instruction and do not depend on government funding. However most major cities have acknowledged the desires of parents to have second language immersion or bilingual instruction right within the public school system.  In Calgary there are 4 schools that teach Mandarin and there are 14 such schools in Edmonton. In Calgary there is a German bilingual school, and there are 13 Spanish bilingual schools with a school in Arabic in the planning stages.. In Manitoba the public school system offers classes in Cree, Flipino, German, Japanese,  Ojibwe, Portuguese, Spanish and Ukrainian.

Parents today  prioritize mother tongues and want to preserve them and as intermarriage and working with others increases, parents prioritize learning a second language so their children can understand other cultures better.  However the daycare 2022 plan is out of touch with those sentiments and it is not offered in diverse languages. ..

5.The residential school system operated to teach  the culture the state approved of.

It required children to be clothed according to a standard dress code – and their own cultural traditions and clothing were not permitted.

The goal of  letting young children only experience colonial culture was that they would not learn their own, and would  abandon their native traditions, values. lifestyles.  One former student reported that when native boys  entered the school they were often forced to cut their long hair to match colonial hair cuts. However in native tradition hair cutting was associated with grief and the young children became confused thinking someone had died.

5. culture – clothing

Residential school photos clearly show young children in school uniforms of standardized style and colonist culture.  The white shirts, ties,  dresses were not consistent with native dress but  were required.  This pressure to change your culture does not exist in any blatant form at daycares. And yet looked at practically there is a tendency to encourage standardization nonetheless, with everyone having to wear mittens and tuques and boots in winter, and certain required dress for sports events. Some daycares have  T shirts with logos for the daycare and this move toward the approved clothing in Canada is not uncommon.  The subtle pressure then to all become the same exists, even if we are not formally legislating it.

6.  Residential schools operated in the religion the state approved, often Catholic, sometimes Protestant but definitely always Christian. It did not permit worship of any other faith though the children were from their own faith tradition.

Many of the schools were operated by churches in the first few decades of the program. Moral lessons cited a faith the children did not come from. 

One directive to Nova Scotia residential schools outlined goals that are clearly western culture goals.

“As the pupils become more advanced inculcate as near as possible in the order mentioned, independence, self-respect, industry, honesty, thrift, self-maintenance, [and] citizenship. . . . Discuss charity, pauperism, Indian and white life, the evils of Indian isolation, enfranchisement. Explain the relationship of the sexes to labour, home and public duties, and labour as the law of existence”

The dances natives did were described as heathen, the Potlatch sacred ceremonies were outlawed in some areas.In addition to discouraging native spirituality, the schools taught Christian songs, texts and values to replace them.  Stories have been told by former students of children being frightened by threats of punishment from the divine if they did not cooperate. Some were told of devils.

Indigenous people had their own religion, a deep spirituality generations in the making. Residential schools either denied they had any religion or called their beliefs inferior and dangerous, superstitious or witchcraft. This claim of moral superiority was also a violation of  conventions on human rights and freedom of religion.

The Convention of Catholic Principals in 1924 wrote::

All true civilization must be based on moral law, which Christian religion alone can give. Pagan superstition could not suffice … to make the Indians practice the virtues of our civilization and avoid its attendant vices. Several people have desired us to countenance the dances of the Indians and to observe their festivals; but their habits, being the result of free and easy mode of life, cannot conform to the intense struggle for life which our social conditions require.

6. religion at childcare centres

In 2022 however  is not politically correct in Canadian daycares to impose any religion. Some church settings may with parental permission and by parental choice teach values of a particular faith. However what is common in large government run daycares is no mention of any religion. 

This lack of favoring any religion for a child sounds unbiased. There is no imposition of religion as happened in residential schools. However there is also no religion.  That itself is a value judgment, to avoid any reference to any faith.

The message the child gets may not be the one intended but if the daycare is a center of learning and there is no mention of any religious values the young child may think that religious values must not  matter. Allowing parents to teach the young child their own faith when they have the child is logical and seems respectful of all faiths. However when young  children experience daily ethnical and moral dilemmas like sharing or handling frustration, not mentioning that parent’s traditional way of coping, at that time, may by its absence, deprive children of exposure to the values of their parent.   A one size fits all daycare system may seem equal but it may also by omission create deprivations of rights of the child.

7.  The residential school system gave access to the diet the state provided and approved of. This standardized regulated fare was deemed healthier to avoid illness and the intent was to ensure these children did not suffer from the vagaries of unstable or insecure food source

The intent of the residential school  diet was to provide an approved good eating guide. In times of scarcity however, , when all people had food challenges, the residential school also struggled to put food on the table.  When funding to the schools was reduced and costs savings were sought, food quality often suffered. Many former students report meals of endless porridge, and report hunger, even starvation. Some spoke of boiled barley, beans, bread covered with lard, and absence of meat or fish, sugar, butter or jam.  The traditional diets natives may have given their young were not permitted.

In the 1950s  laws even permitted child welfare officials to take a native child into government carec if that child had only a traditional diet of game, fish and berries, which officials deemed insufficient for good health.

7. diet, health at daycares

Daycares in 2022 do not tell childrenwhat to eat. There is freedom. And yet  that is not fully accurate.  Slowly over time Canadian daycares are imposing many dietary rules such as no peanuts to protect those with allergies, and some move farther to say no sugary snacks and ban sugary beverages. These bans well intentioned though they are, are the state telling parents how to feed their young, and  impose  a value the parents may not share.  The rationale ‘for their own good ‘is exactly what was used for residential schools when diets were planned.

When cultural foods are not permitted or children are not permitted to bring their own lunches from home, though this may be a policy designed to ensure all children eat, nobody is ashamed, there is no problem with forgetting lunch, the end result is that kids are forced into a standardized diet the state approves of. They may be interpreting the ban on food from home as devaluing  food from home.

The well intentioned desire  to ensure all children avoid obesity, that they eat enough vegetables and fruits may slowly encroach on freedoms.. Parents have rights to raise and feed their own children. The idea the daycare supplements parents and helps is however exceeded when the daycare dictates what foods are allowed and not allowed.

8 The residential schoolsm behind closed doorsm rarely made clear to parents what form of discipline was being used.

Though some reports are of kindly priests and nuns, giving attention and selfless service to the children, other reports tell of staff who were unkind and even abusive.  Former students told of verbal and physical abuse and even sexual abuse.

Deaths at the residential schools were not uncommon. Some were consistent with deaths of settler children during measles, tuberculosis,  typhoid, flu and other epidemics. However some deaths have not been explained. Burials of the children were not always recorded and the nature of the burials was rarely consistent with native tradition.. 

8. discipline in 2022 at daycares

A well intentioned caregiver of children usually tries to keep them happy and to let them play as they learn.  However with larger groups, crowd control itself becomes a focus.  Adult supervisors start to require standardized behavior, silence, obedience, everyone doing the same thing. Children are encouraged to  line up, sit up, all look at the same thing at the same time from very young,.  This requirement for efficient operation may not be appropriate however for very young children at all times, given their widely divergent physical maturity and attention span.  Even if it is possible to get children to all do the same thing at the same time, this imposition on the very young risks stifling their natural attention span and curiosity.

 For crowd control, banter among children has to be kept within a certain sound level. Small  group size can keep noise levels down but if several groups are in the same room the cumulative noise level is often high. Too much noise becomes a factor to interfere with hearing, with concentration and with learning.

When adults engage with children they also deal with their own emotions. They may become irritated and must be careful to  not express this irritation by verbal or physical abuse. They may become sentimental but be careful to still be professional and not express this with hugs.  These restrictions make the childcare setting safe, and standardized. However small children are very physical. They yearn  for touch, hug each other, and yearn for connectionwith adults.  When a childcare setting does not permit adults to hug or even touch a child, this does ensure no physical or sexual abuse can occur. However not allowing hugs also deprives children of normal shows of affection . In our over correction from abuse we may have gone so far we deprived children of cuddling and needed reassurance.

9  Operating the  residential schools was costly and the operators eventually tried cost savings measures

In 1883 the residential school  program had a budget of $44,000 a year, and this was only enabled with cuts to other benefits for natives.  Salary of staff was low and supplies and food were costly.

As early as 1922 there were scandals about cost cutting measures at the schools. Duncan Campbell Scott was known for penny -pinching. One critic, Dr. Bryce raised an alarm. He wrote a pamphlet. “The story of a national crime” saying that native health needs were not being adequately addressed at the schools.  The funding of the schools became an issue of contention.

9. cost and cost savings at daycares in 2022

When the state takes over anything, it operates with keen awareness of the bottom line. When parents have children they know they take on an expense without a corresponding return. However daycares do not operate with this same long view. They aim  to balance the budget each month. Even those that operate not for profit have to pay staff decent wages and cost of living increases,benefits, pensions.  When food costs go up, gas costs go up, heating costs go up, the cost of running a daycare also goes up. The natural tendency of any business is to try to keep costs down.   So the 2022 childcare plan both spends lavishly but will inevitably try to keep costs down.

The 2021 fed budget said:

            -Budget 2021 proposes new investments totalling up to $30 billion

            over the next five years and $8.3 billion ongoing for early learning

            and childcare and indigenous early learning and childcare

            It will spend additional money of facilities, research, staffing, special projects

            and on administration.

            It will spend to improve  physical accessibility – $29.2 million  over two      years

            It will give an additional $34.5 million over 5 years and $3.5 million ongoing for

            administration- a new federal secretariat on early learning and childcare  

            It will also spend $2.5 billion for indigenous childcare over the next five years. .

            -the plan assumes the equivalent matching costs each province will have to make under a 50/50 agreement. This means that taxpayers will be paying then in two


            The plan budget does not quantify other planned costs. Full day kindergarten for 4-5 year olds is not counted. The cost of liability insurance, education equipment, office supplies, transportation and hygiene is also not outlined.

            The plan mentions but does not tally cost of the goal to ‘improve the availability    of data”

Even these promised expenses and rumored extras may not be the full story.

The federal government in 2016-17 promised $7.5 billion over 11 years ‘to support and create more high quality, affordable childcare across the country.      It also promised $5 million to ‘ better understand what childcare looks like in Canada,      and $100 million for ‘innovative practices on early learning and childcare” These promises amounted to over $681 million per year ,much of it  for study of daycare not for provision of it.

In 2021  Cardus Family- in a study of “The real costs  and complexities of national daycare” noted that actual cost estimates for universal daycare keep going up. In 1984 a task force said a national plan would  cost $11.3 billion a year ($26.1 billion in today’s dollars). A 1998 study estimated $7.8 billion cost ($12.1 billion today) In 2009 Dr. Fraser Mustard estimated national care would cost $18- $20 billion a year ($22-24.5 billion in today’s dollars)

In 2019 the government of Ontario announced it would spend $1 billion over 5 years to establish 30,000 new daycare spaces.This translated to $200,000,000 a year for those spaces..

The government of Alberta in 2017 announced it would fund 4500 new daycare spaces with  a $45.6 million grant over 3 years. That worked out to $15.2 million per year for the 4500 spaces.

What happens as these bills go up is a move to quietly behind the scenes cut costs.
Daycares do this in several ways not often made very public. They may hire staff with less training so their pay is less.. They may increase the ratio of children per adult without letting the public know this and they may count all adults in the building even cooks or housekeepers in that ratio..  They may buy furniture, toys, food  in bulk and in that way favor standardizing all play equipment and resources. Such cost savings  may tnot attend to regional or individual needs of children. The daycare  may get discount food of  lower quality, an offense the residential  schools were often accused of doing.

Adjusting group size is a common way to try to still make ends meet. That is what has happened in Sweden’s national daycares. The group size goes higher and higher. However when children are in larger groups, there is a decline in their ability to be heard, to ask questions, to get individual attention.. If they feel ignored, even when surrounded by people, the risk of neglect may be serious, oddly.  In a centre that claims to be attentive,  group size alone may make it inattentive.

For years daycare proponents have admitted the costs would be high.

eg. in 2004 – a national child care system would require a doubling of current spending over the next 10 to 15 years – Martha Friendly – Institute for Research on Public Policy 

The total cost is not even admitted. This  is an open ended bill the taxpayer is expected to pay in perpetuity, like buying a house with no stated interest rate on the mortgage.  The plan to pay this bill becomes circular – to make sure more and more earners pay tax to support this system that is designed  help them earn and pay tax.

10 Ihe residential school system required long periods away from family and psychologists now recognize this separation itself as traumatic

Those who attended the residential schools have spoken of the trauma of being separated from family. Garnet Angeconeb , an Anishinaabe elder from the Lac Seul First Nation in Northern Ontario said “I was ripped away from my loving family. . . . I was afraid. I was lost. I was so lonesome. I felt betrayed. I felt abandoned.”

10. separation from family in daycares

The childcare plan requires for receiving funding that the child not be family. This is also the condition of the childcare expense deduction. It is also the qualifier for getting maternity benefits, that the mother must have had in the previous year income  and not be solely attending to children. This requirement to not be with family could easily be seen as a human rights violation.

UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child

Principle 6

The child for the full and harmonious development of his personality needs love and understanding. He shall, wherever possible grow up in the care and under the responsibility of his parents and in any case in an atmosphere of affection and of moral and material security. A child of tender years shall not, save in exceptional circumstances, be separated from his mother.

To not fund care with the  parent equally with care away from the parent \essentially requires separation of the two parties. It requires this separation at a time of vulnerability of the young child who is still determining attachments and security.

Parents usually prefer  to set up care arrangements with the same caregiver for  years, for stability, In polls they often prefer a parent, a nanny, a grandparent or even a neighbor who is always the same person. Those arrangements however are unfunded by this daycare plan.  A child can set up close bonds and attachments with other adults who are not family members and affection historically has developed between nannies and children for example. However large daycare settings tend to move each child to different age groupings and different caregivers every few years. These required separations from family are problematic themselves. The frequent change of identity of the caregiver at a daycare is a second problem that risks children not attaching to any caregiver adult there.

11. The residential school goal was either integration or assimilation, to get natives to ‘fit into ‘white culture .

Indigenous leaders were concerned about the ultimate goal of assimilation even though a milder goal of ‘integration’ was claimed by government.  If parents were consulted about the programs that might have been closer to the integration goal, still respecting traditions.  However parental input was rarely sought.

In 1969 government removed church authority over the schools but the schools continued to operate for 25 more years.

 Ultimately former Chief Justice Warren Winkler of Ontario concluded that “the residential school system removed children  from their families and communities to serve the purpose of carrying out a concerted campaign to obliterate the habits and associations of Indigenous languages, traditions and beliefs’ in order to accomplish a radical re-socialization aimed at instilling the children instead with the values of Euro-centric civilization:”

On June 11, 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a public apology for the programs. He said :

The treatment of children in Indian residential schools is a sad chapter in our history. . . . Today, we recognize that this policy of assimilation was wrong, has caused great harm, and has no place in our country. . . .

The government now recognizes that the consequences of the Indian residential schools policy were profoundly negative and that this policy has had a lasting and damaging impact on aboriginal culture, heritage and language.

11. integrating or assimilating at daycares in 2022

The daycare plan of 2022 does not intend to assimilate all children to one culture. It is no trying to wipe out identity. However its effect may create some risks that way anyway. Though setting up standardized care is argued as efficient,  practical and least costly,  those excuses do not erase the fact that this can become cultural assimilation on a huge scale. Were it imposed on older teens who already were very familiar with their own heritage it would  not necessarily deprive them of knowledge of their roots. However when it is imposed on very young children, as done with residential schools, it risks not even letting them get to know their roots.  Residential schools often started at age 4.  The 2022 daycare plan will start even younger – for infants.

12 -The residential school  system exerted financial pressure for parents to put their children in the schools

By 1894 the Indian Act was amended to require indigenous children to attend such schools from ages 7- 16 years.

Duncan Campbell Scott who ran residential schools from 1913-1932  wanted to make attendance at such schools compulsory for all First Nations children under age 15 years.  At the end of his tenure, 75% of First Nations children were enrolled at such schools.

The age limits were changed to ages 6-15 years in 1908. Still many native parents objected.   Some parents hid their children from government officials and when the children were forced to attend, repeatedly asked for better funding for the schools, use of nearby settings only and other improvements. These suggestions were usually ignored.

In 1948 attendance at the schools was no longer compulsory. However it was still financially pressured. Parents would not qualify to receive the child benefits under the Family Allowance Act unless their children attended these schools. 

12. financial pressure to use  daycare in 2022

There is no obligation to use the daycare as it is promoted in 2022. However the financial pressure is overwhelming for  many families. There are incentives to keep the daily fee to $10. The current parental income cap will be removal so that even wealthy parents will pay this low rate and are incentivized to use this oplan There are child care expense deductions in addition, to recoup even some of that $10 a day fee at the end of the tax year

 For those how use any other care style however, there are penalties.  They get no

matching funding per day, , no deductions, and even the universal child benefit all parents is capped at a very low parental income.  The tax rate of households that do not have two full time incomes is higher than if they had a two income lifestyle..

Single parents are particularly nudged to use the daycare system not any other

care style. Parents with low income, on welfare, are particularly also nudged

to use it.

These penalties and incentives are intentional. We have heard of them

for years in advocacy for this plan

eg. A cut in welfare payments of 20% would make staying at home with children less attractive and less feasible for many lone mothers The number employed is projected to increase by nearly 11 percentage points.

eg A combination of reduced social assistance payments and enhanced wages will encourage employment, raise average incomes and increase the number of children participating in organized early childhood care

This financial pressure itself may be a human rights violation.  It is forcing a  lifestyle in  a democracy.

There is an additional problem – the 2022  daycare  plan forces every taxpayer to pay the bill for daycare even if they do not use daycare for their own children. . The low cost to parents who use the system is an illusion because the cost is  high and all citizens are forced to pay it..This is in a troubling way similar to getting all taxpayers to fund the residential school system making them parties to what they may later be sued for in class action lawsuits.


13. Contrary to some rumors, the schools did not kidnap the children or intend to kill them . The goal was to help. but to change them, to make them fit in with colonial culture. Some have likened this to not killing the child  but to killing the native in the child.

In 1867 it was decided to provide land for natives to live on, and grants for them to live there.  This enabling however was also a restriction and  free movement off the reserve was often not permitted. Government made getting the grants conditional and  still legislated much of the operation of the reserve.

What is clear in documents is that  the goal was seen at the time as noble, heroic, kind. Those setting up the policies were convinced they were doing good in the world.T he buildings were often the best built ones in the community..  It was a church based and government based massive undertaking to ‘save’ indigenous children. We now know that that intent itself was misplaced, that to deny children a culture and language and parental contact was an affront to human rights..

That however means that when governments feel they are doing the right thing, and claiming virtue for it, there may be other necessary ways to look at their actions.

13.intent of the 2022 daycare plan

The intent of the national daycare plan clearly is not to harm children, or to remove their mother tongue or culture. Its intent is clearly not the same as for residential schools. And yet when it takes children even in infancy and toddlerhood for long periods of time away from family members in order to provide funded care, the effect may be surprisingly similar to removal of those basic  rights.

 If the childcare center were an equally funded option with others, it could be argued that parents had inspected and chosen this care style and endorsed it, so their rights were respected. However since the funding is one sided and parents are heavily pressured to use the daycare style there could not be said to be true freedom to choose. When providing care outside daycare is penalized financially and stigmatized socially as not of use to society, then this is not free choice. The intent may not be to standardize care of the nation’s children– but the effect may be just that.

14. Many  schools were residential in that children did live there but other  arrangements were day school only and the children went home at night. The bathing in another language and culture and forbidding one’s own were as intense however for day schools as for those who stayed overnight.

Two types of schools were eventually set up.  Residential schools took the child away from the parental home entirely, and the child lived at the school. Day schools however also operated where children did  not stay over night.

It is tallied that 139 residential schools operated from between 1831 and 1996, and affected 150,000 children aged 4-16 years. The children were Indian, Inuit or Metis. There were also 699 day schools for native children, operating in a similar way to residential schools, and later the subject of similar law suits and settlements.  It is estimated that 200,000 children attended day schools over their history.

Industrial schools taught farming and trade skills.  In some cases the children lived in a hostel type building not at the schools but close to it.   Residential schools were designed however to offer farm training for boys, domestic skill training for girls but also higher academic skills.  There is criticism however that the academic level of all of the instruction remained at an elementary level most of the time and did not actually empower students to significant success even in colonial culture.

In the later years of such school operation native leaders were given the chance to give input into curriculum but in the early years this was not so. Of the day schools one former student, Annette Jacobs  said  there was nothing an indigenous person could identify with- no pictures, singing, dancing or stories of native roots.

14. two types of care at daycares- day or overnight

With today’s daycare plans, parents know where their children are and usually but not always pick them up each night.  The option for overnight care, is  being promoted but in general the parent still is going to be with the child each day at some point.

 That time ratio however is interesting to study. If a child is at the daycare five days a week and from 6AM to 5PM the child is there for 11 hours a day or 55 hours that week. Clearly the parents are with the child more, the other 13 hours a day and then the two weekend days. However it might be noticed that during those weekdays the child at home is often asleep for 10 hours a night so the active time they are with the parent that day may be as little as 3 hours.   As kids get older they sleep less at night and may spend 4 or 5 hours with the parent while they are awake but let’s face it – the one who is spending most time with the child those week days is the daycare worker.

This means that the principal infuence on the child during the child’s waking hours is the daycare worker most days of the week. This is their influencer for language, attitude, mood.   On weekend\s that changes and parents try to spend more time with the child. However children cannot yet compartmentalize and delay their needs long or their questions.  So the more we impose daycare on children, the less time they are in the care of their parents.

 Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child this fact alone of separation from family, if forced or pressured, may be a rights violation. . Children have a right to parental presence and parents have  right to spend time with their children. If the parent chooses another caregiver the parent is supposed to be able to choose the one that meets their own lifestyle religion, language and cultural standards. The 2022 daycare plan does not provide any full range of choices…

15. There was a wide diversity of native peoples. The residential school system ignored this.

In 1910 Edward Sapir, ethnologist did a study of indigenous languages and found many. To force all of them into one language and culture ignored diversity even amongst themselves.

Residential schools standardized a people and failed to recognize human rights.   Among the 93 indigenous nations now identified were Seneca, Slavey, Stoney, Ahudenausee, Blood, Mi’kmaq, Nahani, Ojibwa, Onondaga, Peigan, Abenaki, Beothuk, Blackfoot, Cayuga, Cree, Dakota. In 2013 government admitted that the term ‘first nations’  applied to 617 different communities, often of groups of several hundred each but with long unique language traditions and cultures. The residential schools ignored all of this diversity most of the time.

15 diversity at daycares

The daycare 2021 plan makes many claims of  inclusion and respect for diversity..

2021 federal budget uses expressions like

            -a more equitable and inclusive society demands all

            Canadians come together

            -the Government of Canada is committed to building a more

            inclusive society that leaves no one behind

            -better respond to the unique needs of vulnerable people

            -improve the quality of life for all Canadians

            -building an economy that works for everyone

            -Canada’s challenge now is to ensure an inclusive, intersectional

            recovery that builds a truly equitable society

            -actions the government is taking in this budget to improve fairness

            and inclusion

However what it does to provide diversity is not very evident.

 The claim is made that the plan will accommodate high needs and handicapped children, autistic children and one would assume even the blind, deaf, gifted, and physically disabled. This claim of being all things to all people is compelling in print but functionally nearly impossible. It is not likely that every small daycare centre will be equipped and staffed for all of those circumstances.

The plan  claims to allow diversity for indigenous rights. Native daycares are to be funded in an entirely separate category, ostensibly to give them attention for their unique nature. And yet if this is government still preferring  nonfamily based care, the risk is very high that it is still pressuring parents away from basic rights..

Currently daycares turn away sick children with any potentially contagious infection. This is wise to ensure less risk to others. Yet this lack of flexibility even in small things means that this highly flexible system is not very flexible. Parents even if paying for daycare often have to scramble to extra fund another care plan that day if a child is sick –  – parent at home, grandma, neighbor.

Daycares have trouble accommodating highly allergic children to the point where some doctors even advise parents of such children to not use daycare.

Large scale operations, it turns out,  are not flexible. However small scale ones can be and the smallest most flexible is often the family.  If funding went to the family directly they could adjust the care of the child according to the child’s  needs.  However this plan does not do that.

16- Residential schools claimed to respect native rights

In 1763 the Royal Proclamation governing first nations guaranteed certain rights and protections. However in practice government eventually took over much of the governing of their lifestyles, even management of their land and the money they were granted. 

Right on paper and rights in practice were found to differ significantly and later laws made the deprivation of rights more normalized.

16. rights of parents and children in the daycare plan

The 2022 daycare plan is promoted as advancing the right  of children to good care – yet it is neglecting right to parental presence.

The plan claims to advance rights of women. However examined closely it only promotes women’s equality if they do paid work. It does not mention equality of women who do unpaid roles as valued in society.. In fact the plan could be seen to even devalue women for time they spend with their children as if in that role they are  not working, not using their skills, not contributing to the economy. . These insults actually set back women’s equality rights.

The 2021 fed budget highlights some of this oddly anti-feminine bias by praising only those who are not with their children. It says of the daycare plan:

            -it enables parents, particularly mothers, to reach their full economic


            -gender equality and diversity are fundamental to creating a thriving

            and successful country

            -unlocking the potential of all women and girls

            -without access to childcare, parents cannot fully participate in our


This bias against one role traditionally done by women is suprising in a plan that claims to value women. However the tone  has been at the centre of the daycare movement for some time. Earlier statements refer to the role with children as a burden and a loss.

eg caring for children, most of the burden is placed on women

eg (daycare gives an) ‘opportunity for parents, especially mothers to work and be economically productive

eg. some who do not have good child care alternatives will leave the labour force

17.Governments  in creating residential schools defined equality in ways that favored only views of equality.

If all native children were in state care, that was its own type of equality.

However the residential school system did not provide equality between natives and nonnatives since only natives were  forced to turn over their children . Compulsory education eventually applied to all children, but only the residential schools required loss of an entire culture.

If all natives were taught the same language that was its own type of equal treatment. However there was not equal respect for the mother tongue of all Canadian children.

If all people in a group are treated the same, that does not mean they are therefore treated fairly. The definition of equality being used by residential schools was eventually challenged by natives themselves.

Some indigenous activists rejected the idea of equal treatment before the law as simplistic at best. They argued that decades of political privilege for European Canadians were still being imposed. Harold Cardinal argued for self-governance and restoration of indigenous land titles.  He said “. the recognition of Indian status is essential for justice. Retaining the legal status of Indians is necessary if Indians are to be treated justly”

17. illusions of equality in the 2022 daycare plan

Some of the claims of the daycare 2021 plan refer to equality. However the claim could be seen as misleading. Yes all children are allowed to enrol in daycare. Yes all children who do so are eligible for the $10 day maximum fee. That is a kind of equality.

And yet anyone who does not enrol in the daycare does not get funded.  Parents not using the daycare have to fund the cost of care of their child entirely on their own, so that is inequality between care styles. It is inequality between children, in fact unequal benefit when ‘equal benefit under the law’ is a basic human right.

 Real equality would be to be funded for however parents raise your children, daycare or not.

If the 2022 childcare  funding  plan favored some children over others based on eye color or race the public would reel in objection to this as unfair discrimination because those are conditions from birth. If we gave the benefit to those with red bicycles but not those with blue ones, there may be an element of lifestyle preference involved but that still would be  an unfair discrimination. The favoritism of daycare over other care styles could be seen as similarly random, similarly unfair intrusion by government in personal lifestyle decisions. It could be argued that the only real equality would be equal funding to parents, directly. so they could choose the care style they preferred.

18.The residential school system  ultimately took parenting away from parents and undermined them. It intentionally gave native parents the message it did not believe in their competence.

Historian John Milloy has called the residential school system an  ‘institutional parenting of children”

Some documents in early years of residential schools expressly outline how children should be taken from parents to help them escape  ‘savage’ influence.   This self-righteous claim of cultural superiority is what constituted an offense to human rights.

18. undermining parenting in the 2022 daycare plan

The daycare 2022 plan in several ways implies that parents are not competent, that the daycare worker is more expert, more professional than they are. It entices parents to feel wisest if they turn the child over each day to the daycare.  This undermining of parents, and of the collected wisdom of their own families, grandparents, traditions and even instincts could be seen as a discrimination of serious implications. It undermines culture itself. Is  that not also what the offense of residential schools was?

Most new parents feel uncertain about their skills. They ask questions , get help from relatives and friends, network, read books even take courses.  In only a few months they get a crash course about this child just from spending time with the child and they become very knowledgeable about the child’s likes. habits, joys, frustrations, allergies, food preferences. This expertise builds up over the childhood years and  is not to be discouraged. It is how children thrive. A  wise government encourages this journey of one on one development of expertise. 

However the 2022  childcare plan discourages building that  expertise. It promotes  a business of  daycare instead. The  daycare industry thrives more if it can convince customers that they are not as competent as is the daycare.  These hints are often subtle. Parents may be told not asked the rules of the daycare, and told not asked about schedules, holidays, diets, events. Some daycares do not permit parents to come into the facility without notice and many convey to parents a counseling demeanor as if the daycare operator is wise and the parent is an observer only.  Such undermining of parents is reminiscent of residential school policy. It may be less intentional but its effect is felt nonetheless.

This devaluing of parents also has long roots  in daycare advocacy. From earlier studies we find statements such as these:

eg. “Parents find it difficult to accurately judge what care arrangements will deliver good quality development experiences for their children”

eg. “High quality regulated child care is better than informal situations in which children are likely to spend their days in environments that may be neither stimulating nor safe”

19. When criticisms of residential schools grew, some changes were made, but often its basic flaws remained.

In 1951 sun dances and potlatch ceremonies were no longer banned. Land claims were made  possible against government. Native women were allowed to vote in band councils.   In the later years,  dayschools were more common and the churches did not operate the schools.  Native parents had some input into curriculum.

However these improvements did not end the basic agenda of the schools to alter native ways.  Government still claimed more rights to intervene in child welfare cases for native children than for other children. In the 1960s it even did so, scooping up so many native children that the practice itself got named the ‘Sixties Scoop”. This action removed many native children from their homes anyway.

Again, with the best of intentions, government gave itself the right to take children from parents.  In 1951 twenty-nine aboriginal children were in BC provincial care. Under the new laws, by 1964 there were 1,466 aboriginal children in such care.  Where only 1% of children in government care had been aboriginal, now 34% were.

As costs of supporting native people and native children grew, government gave itself reasons to reduce financial support. In 1951 it created a rule that revoked the status of some native children and their rights to grants on their 21st birthday.  Many laws also denied women status and rights to funding if they married a nonnative. 

These moves to cut costs were also denial of human rights and dignity.

In 1960 native people were given the right to vote along with all other adult Canadians.  In 1969 however Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau declared a plan to discontinue Indian status as a category.

 In 1973 two native women who had been lost native rights on marriage launched a Supreme  Court challenge but even the Supreme Court ruled that connecting a woman’s native status to her husband was not a discrimination.

In 1981 however a UN Human Rights Commission ruled that loss of native status of a woman on marriage was a violation of article 27 of the International Convenant on Civil and Political Rights. As a result of this decision, Canada passed Bill C-31 to return Indian status to women who had married outside the community and also returned status to their children.

This change resulted in nearly doubling of those registered as of Indian status. The numbers went  from 360,000 in 1985 to over 778,000 in 2007. This however was seen by some as a challenge to governments to be able to afford the benefits they had promised.

So the yoyo of legislation to appear to value natives and yet to not have to live up to the commitment has been part of the journey

19.daycare  amendments and accommodations that do not end the problem

In Canada, universal  daycare plans over time when criticized have made minor adjustments on paper. However the  adjustments have not changed the nature of daycare much. Calling it childcare not daycare did not alter its nature but made it sound more inclusive..  Calling it early education did not offer more learning situations but appeared to promote more learning.

Offering it part time did not change what was experienced, only for  how long.

Funding per ‘space’ did not fund per child, just per chair the child might sit in. In this way daycares received  guaranteed funding even if a child was absent or even if  no child had enrolled in that space. This was handy for daycare as  a business but did not ensure each child got funds wherever they were. 

These adjustments to the plan on paper, perpetuated however the basic bias – to favor non family care over family based care.

The Charter of Rights in  Canada,  Section 15 guarantees however what the plan ignores – equal benefit under the law.

Section 15 (1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination, and in particular without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, color, religion sex, age or mental or physical disability.

The 2022 plan still sends grants directly to the daycare not to parents. It is still designed to deprive parents of agency or even decision making freedom. 

20. Allowing native people to have independent agency , self government, rights to make their own decisions has been a difficult journey for government to accept

In 2002 and in 2006 bills to permit more self governance among natives failed.  Land rights and marital property rights were still not the same for natives as for nonnatives.

In 2007 Indigenous advocacy groups went to court claiming that inadequate funding of child welfare services on First Nations reserves was discriminatory. In 2016 the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal agreed, saying that the funding formula government used was based on ‘flawed assumptions’ that incentivized removing First Nations children from their homes.

In 2022 Canada has agreed to pay $20 billion in compensation to children and families affected by this policy and another $20 billion to reform the child welfare system that created it. Those affected have told media that one of the main losses of being taken in this way into state care was the loss of time with family, irretrievable loss.


20. not permitting self-determination and life style choice in the 2022 daycare plan

Governments can use power in ways that may help people or that may deprive people of choices.  Too much power can corrupt.

With residential schools we saw an overreach of power. Native groups continue to suffer from at the interference there was. They have long struggled for that simple right to make their own decisions- self-determination.

In a similar way, not identical but not completely different, the daycare plan of 2022 deprives parents of agency, of self -determination of how to raise their young.

 The  plan by funding only nonfamily care seems to assume that parents are not trustworthy to make decisions themselves. If the government run plan was open ended, if it was funding to parents to go and live your dream as you wish, to parent as you feel is best- that would be empowering.

If the money flowed to all parents per child, that would be a celebration of the rights of self determination..

But the 2022 daycare plan is not that.


Why  does it matter? If care settings still turn out kids who survive, who learned some things and this enabled parents to earn. is there a harm done?

In fact, yes there may be.. Human rights violations are not just about words on paper. In the case of residential schools the apology and settlement process was based not just on theory but on practical effect – trauma, loss of identity, loss of the natural support network of family, loss of language and culture. These failures to stabilize children with secure sense of being loved and attached to strong roots failed to meet some profound needs of children.  The result, felt in later years, as teens and adults lingered –  PTSD, and failure to thrive in the colonial culture mixed with lack of language or skills to return to the native culture..  The avenues  taken to cope, drugs, alcohol, high rates of suicide were only symptoms of this harm.

Is a national daycare system in 2022 like that? Well of course not. It does not have the same intent at all. But looked at closely, as  daycares became more common in Canadian culture, the rates of teen and young  adult problems in white society and European immigrant culture have also gone up.  Rates of school dropout,  rates of teen gang behavior, social alienation and attraction to terrorist groups are up.  Rates of teen bullying are up, online predators are increasing and there is for teens and young adults a surging opioid crisis.  Authorities say they are mystified . However the lures of drugs, drinking, dropout, crime have always been there in society. What has changed is the ability of teens to resist it, the sense that they are already stable, are valued, have an identity and a future with promise.

The crises among teens and young adults suggest something is not going completely well in how we are anchoring youth to handle life.  If the problem is related to the reduction in time we are permitting with family in favor of formalized care by strangers, we can fix that. And we should.

Childhood comes once. You can’t rewind and redo it and formative years are called that precisely because they make a lifetime impact..  We as a society have to get our policy right about care of our children.

This vision of there being parallels between residential schools and 2022 daycare plans for the nation may offend some if it is misunderstood.

Lest  those who endured significant harm at residential schools be offended at any comparison,  let it be clear that this paper is not saying today’s daycare plan is  the same as that system was. The atrocities and hurts at residential schools were large, dramatic, traumatic.  But we do need to learn from what we did wrong there. There are lessons that apply to other situations. Canada has admitted that earlier governments and churches, despite feeling they were doing a good thing, were harming an entire culture. They were undermining basic human rights, and dignity.

This paper says that we must not again, even with the best of intentions, make similar condescending decisions..  If we have learned our lesson, that parents have rights to make their own decisions, that governments must not take over parenting and that governments are unfair to financially pressure nonfamily care  over other care styles- we have to show we learned those lessons.

There is also some risk that those who benefit from the daycare 2021 plan will feel offended, threatened, judged. They may fear that someone is trying to take away their benefits. That may fear that someone is criticizing their care style and their lifestyle. Those impressions however would be wrong.

This paper is not asking for benefits to be lost.  It is not asking that those who use daycare get less. It is simply asking that those who do not use daycare and currently get less get the same benefit as daycare users get.  It is asking not for a levelling down but for a levelling up.  There is no threat to daycare users financially.

In fact if the plan as it stands does ensure enough money to put every child in Canada in daycare, as it proposes, then it has enough money for every child, period, daycare or not. The way the funding operates would just have to be  made more direct so parents got the funds and then could use them as they wish.

Any perceived insult to lifestyle of daycare use is also a mistake. There has been much research showing the merits of daycare and also of its flaws. People differ. For some parents 3rd party childcare works very well and their children seem happy. Some particularly like small dayhomes and community run centres.   However if parents notice that a child is not thriving at a daycare, this paper suggests that there should be options, equally well funded and valued by government. Parents should not be stuck with any care style that is not working for them.  So this paper actually is trying to make sure all parents have that range of choices in case their situations, jobs, schedules, health needs of the child or other circumstances make a given care style inappropriate.  If we leave the choice with parents, that is how we ensure basic human rights.

This paper argues for parents to be respected for their expertise and their rights. It asks that however families choose to use it, that time with their children is available as they prefer not only as the state dictates.

Basic human rights do not change.  They should have been respected in the 1800s and they should still be respected in 2022.

%d bloggers like this: