The schools were funded through Indian Affairs and the Catholic Church. The institution was like an orphanage, which were the forerunners of contemporary child protection and welfare services. The first children arrived on February 5, 1930 and the institution was closed after 37 years on June 22, 1967. Approximately 10% of Mi'kmaq children lived at the institution. (Approximately 30% of native children were placed in residential schools nationally.) Over 1000 children are estimated to have been placed in the institution over 37 years.
Contemporary opinions of the institutions range from National Chief Phil Fontaine comparing it to “genocide” to the aboriginal affairs minister John Duncan describing it as “an education policy gone wrong“. As the institution was moved out of poverty and away from corporal punishment in the 1950s and 60s, predictability, Mi’kmaq people’s memories of the school improved. One Mi’kmaq woman who attended the institution from 1955- 1962 spoke positively about attending the school, preferring it over living in the poverty on her reserve.
At the same time, those who were placed in the institution during the first twenty years have spoken of the traumatic experiences they had in the institution. Most agree that there were serious problems with the institution: poor living conditions, corporal punishment, over-crowding, lack of academic education, forced farm labour, hunger, racist curriculum, and children punished for speaking the Mi’kmaw language.
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