Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network

Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network

June 10, 2008 11:53 ET

Impact of Residential Schooling Far Reaching States HIV/AIDS Organization

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - June 10, 2008) - Most experts agree that Residential Schooling is now considered one of Canada's worst policies. Not only was the education flawed for the most part, but physical and sexual abuse from those in a moral authority role resulted in damages still felt today.

Research conducted by the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network based in Ottawa has shown both a direct and indirect link between Residential Schooling and HIV/AIDS.

In a 2005 study updated in 2008, titled Canadian Aboriginal People living with HIV/AIDS: Care, Treatment and Support Issues, 32 (16%) of the 195 Aboriginal People Living with HIV/AIDS reached in this study had attended a Residential School. Almost half (48%) had a parent, guardian or grandparent who had attended.

Subsequent research, notably the Canadian Aboriginal Cultural Competence for HIV/AIDS Health Care Providers study currently being conducted, reveals that many Aboriginal people, once diagnosed with HIV or AIDS, benefit from a reconnection with their culture. It often becomes the main source of strength to deal with the diagnosis.

Beyond the sad reality of physical and sexual abuse, is the immeasurable impact of cultural loss, experienced when languages were forbidden and punishable. This void that some Aboriginal people experience can be traced back to their early education.

"One notable difference between Residential Schools and church run orphanages is that Aboriginal identity was deliberately a target for change. Assimilation was the goal" states Kevin Barlow, Chief Executive Officer and a researcher with the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network.

Barlow goes on to say that "Sadly, many individuals, hurt through these experiences turned to substance abuse as a way to cope." Injecting drug use now accounts for about two-thirds of the new HIV infections in the Aboriginal population in Canada according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

A long awaited apology while welcomed is only one piece in the efforts of the Aboriginal population to undo the harms that have come from such failed federal policy. Retaining language and culture must continue, in order to support Aboriginal people to strengthen their identity and regain lost ground.

"Until such time that we have strong, vibrant individuals living proudly with a cultural identity, those who are struggling with addictions, must be supported through harm reduction and other interventions, so that we do not continue to add HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C, and other life threatening illnesses to the experiences of Residential Schools" adds Barlow.

To retrieve the Care, Treatment, Support Issues study, visit:

Contact Information

  • Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network
    Kevin Barlow
    Chief Executive officer
    613-567-1817 ext 110