The Canadian Residential School System: An International Law Failure


  • Brianna Darwin University of Kent


The government of Canada set out to completely rid the country of any traces of Indigenous culture, language, and rights. By implementing the Indian Act, it became illegal for an Indigenous child to attend any school other than a Residential School. Further, it deemed truancy a crime to which their parents would be punished by a fine or imprisonment while their children were kidnapped and placed in a Residential School. These schools were in operation in Canada from approximately 1880 to 1996. They wreaked havoc on Indigenous lives and culture, specifically for Indigenous children. This article opens up this chapter of history, and questions Canada’s acts through the prism of the international framework of state responsibility. It puts forth the claim that the churches that ran the schools ought to be deemed as organs of Canada. At the backdrop of this critique is a conversation with other scholars who captured the structural indeterminacies in international law that facilitate maintaining a blind eye toward injustices afflicted against Indigenous people.

Author Biography

Brianna Darwin, University of Kent

Bachelor of Law from the University of Kent.