“I was six years old in a school in which thousands of children died in Canada.”
“When you look down the road you always expect to see your parents coming to get you out of here,” Isadore Bormann says as he looks down the road to a former boarding school for Aboriginal children in Moscovicuan. Canada.
Bormann is a survivor of boarding schools in Canada, a chain of government-run schools, run mostly by the Catholic Church, which were part of a policy of assimilating indigenous children and destroying their cultures and languages.
In them, children suffered from all kinds of abuse. it is expected that About 6 thousand died 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 About the legacy of boarding schools in Canada.
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 his church-run boarding school in Muskowekwan in the 1970s.
This network of boarding schools operated between 1863 and 1998, when more than 150,000 Aboriginal children were separated from their families.
“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.”
Read also: The evil exercises in which 6,000 aboriginal children died in Canada
Children who went through these schools suffered 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.
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, due to the blows he received to the head.
“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.
“I entered (the school) speaking Solto, and I came out speaking only English. I don’t know my language.”tell me.
“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 what was found in the grave.
This is why they realize the importance of telling their stories.
Read also: ‘We know a lot of children are missing’: Trauma in Canada after the bodies of 215 children were discovered from a boarding school
“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 the 130 incarcerated, 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.
“For the church to continue without an apology, I think it’s a crime. You have to apologize. I’m talking about the Pope,” says Robert Joseph, ambassador for the original Canadian Reconciliation Organization.
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 I am deeply disappointed by the position taken by the Catholic Church, now and in previous years,” he said in one of his speeches.
“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 Bormann, who was incarcerated 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.”
Read also: ‘Like Lab Rats’: Canada’s frightening malnutrition experiences on indigenous schoolchildren
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