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The anglican church of Canada and the Indian residential schools: a meaning-centred analysis of the long road to apology

Woods, Eric Taylor (2012) The anglican church of Canada and the Indian residential schools: a meaning-centred analysis of the long road to apology. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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The Canadian residential school system, which operated from the 1880s until the 1970s, was a church-state enterprise designed to assimilate Aboriginal children into Euro-Canadian culture and was characterized by poor sanitation and widespread abuse. Recently, it has been the object of the most significant and most successful struggle for redress in Canadian history. However, for most of its long history, the many failings of the residential school system went unacknowledged by the organizations formerly involved in its operation. In this thesis, I seek to explain why. In doing so, I provide a framework for further study on the residential schools and on comparable cases. To resolve my question, I conduct a comparative historical analysis of the Anglican Church of Canada, which was formerly an important partner in the operation of the residential schools. My data is drawn from a wide range of archival material. My analysis is framed by a meaningcentred approach to social behaviour referred to as the Strong Program. In sum, I argue that the initial meaning of the school system as a sacred enterprise hindered acknowledgement of its failings. For the church to acknowledge the failings of the residential schools, such a meaning needed to be replaced with a new meaning emphasizing the tragic consequences of the school system. This could only occur once the balance of social power had shifted away from the defenders of the sacred meaning and towards its detractors.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2011 Eric Taylor Woods
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Sets: Departments > Government
Supervisor: Hutchinson, John

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