Childhood trauma bodes ill for future

Published November 1, 2012

An aboriginal person who has had a personal or family involvement with a residential school in Canada is statistically more likely to end up in the care of the Children’s Aid Society (CAS), a new study now shows. And being involved with the CAS increases his or her likelihood of getting into trouble with the law.

The study, Residential School Experience and Involvement with the Criminal Justice System, was commissioned by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC). A copy of the study report was provided exclusively to the Anglican Journal.

The report also shows a statistically significant relationship between personal or family involvement with residential schools and exposure to violence as a child.

“Involvement with the CAS is linked to separation from the family, [as well as] physical or sexual abuse as a child and criminal behaviour later in life,” write the study authors.The findings provide “a very clear indication of the inter-generational trauma…” of residential schools, said Jonathan Rudin in an interview. Rudin is program director at Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto (ALST) and co-author of the report, along with Ashley Quinn. The report will be included in the TRC’s final report to be published in 2014.

The study is based on statistical analysis of Gladue reports, which contain the personal history of an offender. While the study does not establish whether or not attendance at residential schools is linked to criminality, statistics consistently point to the over-representation of aboriginal inmates in Canadian prisons.

Even though aboriginal people make up less than four per cent of the total population, one in four male inmates in Canadian prisons is aboriginal, Rudin pointed out. One in three women in jail is aboriginal and almost a third of incarcerated youth is aboriginal.


  • Marites N. Sison

    Marites (Tess) Sison was editor of the Anglican Journal from August 2014 to July 2018, and senior staff writer from December 2003 to July 2014. An award-winning journalist, she has more that three decades of professional journalism experience in Canada and overseas. She has contributed to The Toronto Star and CBC Radio, and worked as a stringer for The New York Times.

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