Physical Abuse in Residential Schools


Physical abuse was not uncommon in residential schools. There are many documented accounts of students being physically beaten and abused.

Physical abuse was a chronic issue in both the Indian Affairs' and the Northern Affairs' school systems. In 1947 the Department of Indian Affairs distributed the guidelines for the punishment of students which paralleled those issued to the provincial school system. Within the residential system, the interpretation of these guidelines was left to the faculty resulting in many different excuses and justifications for meting out punishments well beyond the guidelines. The abuse ranged from "pulling ears, slapping heads, and hitting knuckles" as forms of punishment to sadistic staff members who delighted in inflicting severe and unjustified punishments while creating an environment of fear and uncertainty among the students. The official missionary reaction to these complaints was denial and cover-up. There are a few accounts of staff members who the students centered their affections on but the problem seemed to be, as was noted at Lejac school as well, "that the kindly staff were outnumbered by the others."