Canada's residential schools

Learn more about Canada’s residential school system.

A Museum exhibit showing a black-and-white photo of children sitting in rows at school desks. Two desks, similar to those in the photo sit in the centre of the exhibit. A headline on a text panel reads “Childhood Denied.” Partially obscured.

Photo: CMHR, John Woods

More than 130 residential schools operated across Canada. The schools were a deliberate attempt to destroy Indigenous communities and ways of life. They were part of a broader process of colonization and genocide.

In this guide, you will find links to resources related to the residential school system and the stories of children who were taken from their families and sent to residential schools. Resources include websites, books, community and support organizations, and more. For further assistance, please contact the Museum’s Carte International Reference Centre at

Difficult subjects are discussed in some of the materials found in this guide, including but not limited to genocide, violence and sexual violence against children, and other traumatic events. If you are a residential school Survivor or family member in need of emotional support, a national crisis line is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week: 1–866-925‑4419.

The Carte International Reference Centre is not responsible for the content of external links. Inclusion of material in this resource guide does not necessarily represent an endorsement of the views expressed. Material is presented in the language in which it was originally produced.

Survivors' stories

Many residential school Survivors and their descendants have shared their stories, the stories of their families, and the stories of their communities through published memoirs. Here are a few.

National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR)

The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) was established in 2015 at the University of Manitoba to continue the work of the TRC. It provides access to many resources, including the experiences, photographs, and memories entrusted to the Centre by Survivors of residential schools. Here are some relevant links:


There is a growing collection of books on Canada’s residential schools and the experiences of residential school Survivors in the Carte International Reference Centre, located on Level 5 at the Museum. Here are a few works that provide a broad overview:

Resources for children and young adults

Many books and other resources have been created for children and young adults that deal with the topic of residential schools. Here are a few titles:

  • A Stranger at Home
    Jordan‐Fenton, Margaret Pokiak‐Fenton and Liz Amini‐Holmes (Illustrator). A Stranger at Home. Annick Press, 2011.

  • CBC Kids – “Indigenous” topic
    Series of articles for youth on various subjects related to Indigenous peoples.

  • Étrangère chez moi : une histoire vraie
    Jordan‐Fenton, Christy, Margaret‐Olemaun Pokiak‐Fenton and Liz Amini‐Holmes (Illustrator). Hélène Pilotto (Translator). Étrangère chez moi : une histoire vraie. Éditions Scholastic, 2012.

Community organizations

Various community organizations support residential school Survivors and their families and raise awareness about the history and legacy of Canada’s residential schools. Many provide opportunities to get involved, give support and take action.

Video resources

Several documentaries, short news stories and films have been produced about residential schools.

  • Les pensionnats indiens
    Une sélection de films de cinéastes issus ou alliés des peuples autochtones sur les effets dévastateurs du système des pensionnats au Canada

  • Residential Schools
    A selection of films by Indigenous filmmakers and allies about the tragic impact of residential schools in Canada


A variety of in‐gallery and online exhibitions dealing with the impact of residential schools have been created by museums, art galleries and other organizations.

The Witness Blanket

Inspired by a woven blanket, the Witness Blanket is a large‐scale work of art. It contains hundreds of items reclaimed from residential schools, churches, government buildings and traditional and cultural structures from across Canada.

A person with curly hair, glasses and wearing a black top examines a large artwork consisting of objects set in cedar frames. The image has been broken into interlocking geometric shapes over a pale brown background with a slight wood grain texture.