How Canada's residential schools stole childhoods

Tortured, beaten, and forced to live a regimented lifestyle that denied their indigenous culture -- these three siblings are survivors of Canadian residential schools.

Last month, the remains of 215 indigenous children were discovered at a school in Western Canada.

Reopening old wounds for Linda Daniels, Ernie Daniels and Ruth Roulette, like many others.

Linda recalls how their long hair, which often had spiritual significance, was cut upon arrival.

"And they cut my hair off, and I looked at my hair… and it was so devastating. And then they washed us, put this DDT [chemical insecticide] on us, and I had headaches for a long time, and sometimes still have headaches."

Food was inedible, she and many other survivors say.

"I was used to having rabbit and deer meat and potatoes and things like that. And with the food that we had there, I used to throw up, and my cousin would throw up too, and then they'd make us eat our vomit. And for many years, I still have ulcers because of that."

A Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission called the system "cultural genocide", finding in 2015 that children were malnourished, beaten and forbidden from speaking their native languages.

The schools operated between 1831 and 1996 and removed about 150,000 indigenous children from their families.

Survivors remember a "paramilitary" lifestyle, waking up early, waiting rigidly in lines. Ernie recalls the violence:

"Because I was young, so I got tortured, I got beaten up and you name it as a young child."

Indigenous groups plan to search residential schools across the country, as they mourn those stolen childhoods.

"When the news first came out - I'm raising a great grandson and he's nine years old - and that night he was playing outside with lots of his friends. They were chasing a gopher actually and I was really upset with him. But I was watching him and I said, you know, those 215 children never got a chance to play, like my great grandson. And it really hurt me."

The Canadian government has formally apologized for the system.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the Catholic Church must take responsibility for its role in running many of the schools and provide records to help identify remains.

Pope Francis said on Sunday he was pained by last month's discovery, but he did not apologize.

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