Canada: “At the age of six I was a prisoner in a school where thousands of children died”

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“When you look down the road, you always expect to see your parents coming to get you out of here,” Isadore Bormann says, looking down the road to a former boarding school for Aboriginal children in Moscoviquan, Canada.

Burman is a survivor of the Canadian Boarding Schools, a chain of government-run schools, mostly run by the Catholic Church, which has been part of a policy of assimilating Aboriginal children and destroying their cultures and languages.

In them, children suffered from all kinds of abuse. it is expected that died about 6000 While they were in these boarding schools. Their bodies were rarely returned home and many were buried in unknown graves. So far about 4100 have been identified.

The discovery last May of the remains of 215 Aboriginal children who were students at another boarding school in Kamloops, the country’s largest, sparked a wave of national outrage.

Since then, more unidentified graves have been found, over 1,100 to date, causing a type of grave type to occur. national rule On the legacy of Canadian boarding schools.

The findings drew international attention to the abuses children suffered in these institutions, while at the same time urging survivors of these schools to speak out and speak out about what they experienced there.

‘We suffer from all levels of abuse’

Isadore Poorman returned with the BBC team to the church-run Muskowekwan boarding school he attended in the 1970s.

“At the age of six I was locked up here. I was a prisoner here. I had my time,” Bormann says, with tears in his eyes.

“It’s hard to go back to where you were abused.”

image source, Getty Images


Children at a boarding school for aboriginal minors in Canada in 1950.

The children who went through these schools suffered from all kinds of abuse, physically and emotionally.

“You woke up and the first thing you did was make your bed,” Bormann recalls what was the room they slept in at the now-abandoned school. “And we had to make the bed very well, as in the army, without wrinkles or anything, if they didn’t beat us.”

He also remembers one night when a baby started crying, and then everyone else started crying too. “It was a devastating cry. That is why they beat himTo make others cry.


Isadore Poorman in the room where he slept with other students at Muskowekwan School.

For Geraldine Lee Chingos, another detainee survivor, the psychological and mental abuse she experienced was “extremely painful” because of her self-respect and identity.

“You’re a sinner, you’re a filthy Indian.” That’s what I heard when she was a baby during 9 years in the hospital.

Today Lee is deaf, so he has to use hearing aids because of the blows to the head he received.

“We suffer from all levels of abuse.”

The children were forced to give up their native languages, speak English or French, and convert to Christianity.

“We kept silent because we were afraid”

Lee says he kept to himself for many years what happened to him at boarding school.

“I’ve never shared it with my kids or my family, not even my siblings,” he says.

It’s something that is repeated in other survivors of this sinister boarding school system.

“We never talked about it. We were silent because we were afraid“Says the last of them, Leonard Ermine.” We were afraid that if we talked, if we went back to school, we would be punished for it. ”

“At least now we know what happened to the children who never came back from school. Those who never came home,” he adds, referring to the finds found in the tombs.

This is why they realize the importance of telling their stories.

“I encourage all surviving prisoners to tell their story,” Borman says. “Stories matter.” “If we lose them, that will be forgotten.”

“There are stories you haven’t heard yet and now is the time. The world is watching,” he adds.

Waiting for church apologies

Survivors are still waiting for church leaders to apologize for what happened in the boarding schools.

The Catholic Church was responsible for the work up to 70% of 130 detainees, according to the Aboriginal Boarding School Survivors Association.

“In 2016, I wrote a letter to Pope Francis, but we never got a response,” Lee says.

image source, Getty Images


Geraldine Lee Chingos

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has described the grave as finding a “painful reminder” of a “shameful chapter in our country’s history”, has also repeatedly urged the Catholic Church to “Take responsibility” of their role in the residential schools of the indigenous people.

“As a Catholic,” he said in one of his speeches, “I am deeply disappointed by the position the Catholic Church has taken, now and in previous years.”

“There is no reconciliation without truth”tell me.

That is why it is so important to share their stories.

“Going back here somehow heals me,” says Borman, who was detained in Moscoviquan. “It lifts my spirits to know I’m talking about it.”

“We can help each other, as survivors, take care of each other, maintain things like that and not forget, it’s the most important thing, without forgetting what happened here. The genocide that happened here.”

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Sacha Woodward

"Wannabe writer. Lifelong problem solver. Gamer. Incurable web guru. Professional music lover."

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