Charlottetown student makes video about residential school shame

Jim Day
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Samantha Silliphant's video about residential schools in Canada is among 30 short films that Canadians can vote on as part of the Young Citizen's program organized by Canada's History. To view the video and to vote, visit

Charlottetown’s Samantha Silliphant shudders at the thought of what life must have been like for aboriginal students in the days of residential schools in Canada.

The 12-year-old Stonepark Intermediate School student researched the harsh realities faced by the many unfortunate students that were on the receiving end of the Canadian government’s policy called “aggressive assimilation,’’ that saw aboriginal children taught at church-run, government-funded industrial schools, later called residential schools.

Samantha learned how students were discouraged from speaking their first language or practicing native traditions. If they were caught, they would experience severe punishment.

Throughout the years, students lived in substandard conditions and endured physical, emotional and even sexual abuse.

“Their clothes were all ragged...and their food was bread and drippings,’’ said Samantha.  

Life, she understands, must have been so hard. School today clearly is “pretty different’’ for Samantha and her peers.

“I think that my life is better than their life because I go to a school where I will not get beaten if I speak my own language,’’ she said.

“I can choose on my own if I want to attend a class where I will speak a different language. For children my age, education is more important than work. I will also be able to go home after school and see my family and friends instead of needing to stay at school and work.’’

Samantha hopes the video she has made will help other students, as well as Canadians in general, realize just what life was like for aboriginal students that were forced to attend one of the 130 residential schools located across the country with the last of these schools closing in 1996.

Her video is among 30 short films that Canadians can vote on as part of this year’s Young Citizens program. Organized by Canada’s History, the interactive program encourages students from Grades 4 to 11 to research and film videos on Canadian heroes, legends and key events relating to Canada’s north.


 “The Young Citizens program fosters real connections between students and aspects of our past,’’ said Deborah Morrison, CEO and publisher of Canada’s History Magazine.

“They become the tellers of the story which in turn gives them a greater sense of ownership of our history, and a greater commitment to ensuring it is remembered by others.’’

Canadians have until June 3 to view, comment on and vote for their favourite student video online at Once ballots are tallied, a panel of judges will review all submissions and select four students who will travel to Ottawa in November.

There, they will screen their film at the Canada’s History Forum, held annually in conjunction with the Governor General’s History Awards.

Organizations: Stonepark Intermediate School, Young Citizens, History Forum

Geographic location: Charlottetown, Canada, November.There

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Recent comments

  • JT
    May 20, 2013 - 08:21

    im glad for your family robb....diff story on the east family was raped beaten and if hand slapped with rulers because my grandfather was born left handed..

  • Fact Checking
    May 20, 2013 - 06:38

    It would be interesting to also show the other side to the schools, where would a lot of these people have been had they not had the residential school to attend? Why this always has to be in a negative light, I wish someone would have the guts to write something positive for a change, because there certainly were some positive experiences. But people in this social media world we live in don't go for positive stories.

    • Islander living in the North
      May 21, 2013 - 10:16

      Don't forget 'Fact Checking' that this is a project by a Jr. High student. You're putting way too much responsibility onto the shoulders of such a young person.

    • TRC
      May 22, 2013 - 11:31

      If you want to learn more about all the aspects of residential schools, you can go to the website (truth and reconciliation commission of Canada) Read the intermediate report, listen to the testimonies of actual residential school survivors. and ask yourself: would you say that it is better your child learned how to read in another language although raped or physically abused repeatedly over the years, or that it would be better to keep him while you so that he can become a healthy adult who can take part to the community life ?

    • Laurie Montour
      May 30, 2013 - 13:14

      Don't know which hole you've been hiding in for the past two decades. The experience of thousands of children was so horrific that it wasn't even spoken of, to their families, let alone to the school administrators, the churches that you had attended, or the federal government - all those who were supposed to protect innocent children. The positive light - look at Harper, who's attempting to put his government's own misdeeds in a positive light, but few are buying it. This has nothing to do with guts, it's getting the truth out about a much larger picture, that is yet a component of how aboriginal peoples were treated historically, and how their rights, economies, lands, languages are still seen as 'less than' that of the ordinary Canadian who now occupies our lands. Takes guts to write about rampant public and governmental discrimination, and it takes guts to respond to the incessant racism in one's own country. Where would these people be, seems to assume on your part, that they would not have been better off without residential schools. So do your homework and look at Native controlled education of Native children, examine the privileges of dominant white culture and what it teaches. Lastly, open your mind to other ways of doing things, instead of supporting 'white is right', which is what you are implying.

  • robb
    May 19, 2013 - 21:03

    to say all residential schools were all bad is far from correct,i live in the north where majority of people i know went to residential school,and most that went are leaders in there communities and have great jobs,because they have an education unlike today where you give prizes to kids who have a 50 percent attendance record,,it is a touchy subject ,and yes bad things did happen,and great things happened as well.

    • Uncle Wally
      May 20, 2013 - 07:55

      I am a white middle class male, so my right to make comment here is limited. However, I have read on this issue and more importantly, I have had conversations with actual residential school survivors. To this end, I now have a deeper understanding of the truth. And the truth is that, technology aside, had Samantha Silliphant been incarcerated in a residential school, she would never have been allowed to make her video and that makes all the difference, doesn't it? As for the success stories to which you make reference? They were not success stories, they are survival stories. The "successful" inmates of our residential schools, those that physically survived, were successful despite their incarceration, not because of it.