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History Native American

A National Crime

The Canadian Government and the Residential School System

by (author) John S. Milloy

foreword by Mary Jane Logan McCallum

University of Manitoba Press
Initial publish date
Sep 2019
Native American, Post-Confederation (1867-), Native American Studies
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    May 1999
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2017
    List Price
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2019
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Aug 2011
    List Price
  • Downloadable audio file

    Publish Date
    Oct 2022
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 15
  • Grade: 10


“I am going to tell you how we are treated. I am always hungry.” — Edward B., a student at Onion Lake School (1923)

"[I]f I were appointed by the Dominion Government for the express purpose of spreading tuberculosis, there is nothing finer in existance that the average Indian residential school.” — N. Walker, Indian Affairs Superintendent (1948)

For over 100 years, thousands of Aboriginal children passed through the Canadian residential school system. Begun in the 1870s, it was intended, in the words of government officials, to bring these children into the “circle of civilization,” the results, however, were far different. More often, the schools provided an inferior education in an atmosphere of neglect, disease, and often abuse. Using previously unreleased government documents, historian John S. Milloy provides a full picture of the history and reality of the residential school system. He begins by tracing the ideological roots of the system, and follows the paper trail of internal memoranda, reports from field inspectors, and letters of complaint. In the early decades, the system grew without planning or restraint. Despite numerous critical commissions and reports, it persisted into the 1970s, when it transformed itself into a social welfare system without improving conditions for its thousands of wards. A National Crime shows that the residential system was chronically underfunded and often mismanaged, and documents in detail and how this affected the health, education, and well-being of entire generations of Aboriginal children.

About the authors

John Milloy is a professor in the departments of Native Studies and History, and Master of Peter Robinson College, Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario.

John S. Milloy's profile page

Mary Jane Logan McCallum is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History at University of Winnipeg. She is currently a CIHR New Investigator with the Manitoba Network Environment in Aboriginal Health Research.

Mary Jane Logan McCallum's profile page


  • Winner, Margaret McWilliams Award

Editorial Reviews

“One of the 100 most important Canadian books ever written.?

Literary Review of Canada

“Milloy's book should be mandatory reading for all citizens of the Americas."

Globe and Mail

“The most definitive account of how the Canadian government and churches conspired to turn a blind eye to the failings of the residential system for aboriginal children.?

National Post

Librarian Reviews

A National Crime: The Canadian Government and the Residential School System, 1879 to 1986

This book details the neglect and abuse that children suffered within Indian Residential Schools. It argues that the Canadian Government was fully informed and so legally responsible. As a researcher with the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, investigating the mistreatment of Aboriginals, the author had access to the files of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada not available to others. This book makes evident that the residential school system was “at best a tragic failure and at worst a national crime”. The author deals extensively with “sexual abuse” and “abusers”. This is a key resource for collections focussing on First Nations issues.

Milloy teaches history and Native studies at Trent University.

Source: The Association of Book Publishers of BC. Canadian Aboriginal Books for Schools. 2008-2009.

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Other titles by Mary Jane Logan McCallum

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