Chapter 8: Winding Down the Schools
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By the 1950s, it became obvious that the residential school program had failed to reach its goals: Aboriginal peoples had not been assimilated into the Canadian mainstream, and graduates were not succeeding in their vocations. The situation could no longer be ignored. A policy of integration was now proposed as the best way to proceed, and as the residential school curriculum was reformed to meet national standards, the schools were slowly replaced by day schools. These schools were deemed "the best hope of giving the Indians [and other Aboriginal Peoples] an equal chance with other Canadian citizens to improve their lot and to become fully self-respecting." The churches, reluctant to relinquish the residential school program, shifted their focus to the care of orphans and children at risk of abuse and neglect.
During the 1960s and 1970s, parents and Aboriginal groups continued to speak out against the residential school system. However, as the church-run schools closed, the provincial and federal child welfare programs expanded. Yet many of these programs only divided Aboriginal communities even further. One such program, for example, known as the "60's scoop," attempted to address the lack of Aboriginal parental skills by forcibly removing thousands of Aboriginal children from their parents, instead of helping the parents learn better parenting skills. Instead, the children were made wards of a poorly monitored child welfare system, and most of them were placed into non-Aboriginal foster homes.
Gradually, the remaining residential schools closed down or were transferred to the control of Indian bands during the last decades of the twentieth century. The last band-run Indian residential school, Gordon Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan, closed in 1998.