To kill the Indian in the Child

“I want to get rid of the Indian problem. Our objective is to continue until there is not a
single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic and there is no
Indian question.” Duncan Campbell Scott, Deputy Superintendent of Indian Affairs,
In 1857, a “Gradual Civilization Act,” which was later confirmed in 1869 by the “Gradual
Enfranchisement Act,” assumed the inherent superiority of British and French ways over
the aboriginal culture and society in Canada. The laws laid the foundation for a
residential school system run by the federal government of Canada in partnership with
all major churches. The system aimed at translating the “inherited superiority”
expressed in the laws, into an educational system that aimed to “integrate” Canadian
Aboriginals into mainstream Anglo/Franco society. The schools were seen as a tool to
radically alter the children’s cultural heritage, forcing them to speak only French and
English and not their native tongue, dress in Western clothes, and abolish all tribal
distinctions. In many cases, the children were forcefully separated from their parents,
and due to Canada’s geographical size, they could rarely visit their families. The goal
was to transform them into “white “ Canadians, thus slowly abolishing the need for
separate reservations and solving the “Indian problem”. The first school was established
in 1840, and the last one closed in 1996.
For over a century, this system degenerated into abuse. Rather than producing new
“white Canadians,” the system produced traumatized and barely functioning young
adults who, with no experience of parenthood, went on to produce non-functioning
families plagued with drugs and alcohol.
The numbers are in dispute, but in the early part of the 20th century, at one time as
many as 50% of the children never returned to their homes and presumed to have
perished in these schools.
If there is one person who is the public face of a residential school system, it is Duncan
Campbell Scott, the deputy superintendent of the Indian Affairs department, (and a
well-known poet in his time) who has single-handedly shaped agency policy, the
emerging school system, and the Canadian government’s attitude towards the
indigenous population.
Duncan Campbell Scott died in 1947. But what if we could put him on trial for the
crimes the Canadian government now admits were committed in the residential schools
in the name of assimilation? Actors play the roles of crown prosecutor and defense.
The film presents evidence for and against his culpability. through interviews with
historians, survivors stories and Duncan Cmabell Scot’s own words.
Does Canada’s “cultural assimilation” “program rise to the level of genocide?
The ultimate jury for this cinematic trial will be the audience.