Dalhousie Law Journal


Canada, residential school, family, genocide, aboriginal, indigenous, international law


Apart from characterizations of the residential schools system as imposing cultural genocide, it is possible to understand the system in terms of a legal wrong involving violations of family integrity. The 19th and early 20th centuries saw increasing state intervention in families generally so as to impose compulsory education. However, wrongs in this intervention were recognized, and international law developed toward a right of family integrity that led to changes in non-Indigenous contexts. Evidence from the TRC shows that Canada did not respond as quickly in the Indigenous context, thus permitting an identification of how the residential schools system violated international law at least in its latter decades. Focus on this international law right of family integrity has potential application to other contexts ofinterference with Indigenous families and is thus a helpful legal approach that should be adopted.