In 1964, when he was five, Barry Kennedy was taken from his family and sent to one of Canada’s residential schools, which sought to eradicate his indigenous heritage. It was a “torture camp”, he says on Today in Focus. The bodies of 1,100 indigenous children have now been found at the sites of residential schools, the last of which closed in 1996. As many as 15,000 may have died from malnutrition, disease and neglect in an abusive system funded by the state and run by the Catholic Church.
On his first day at Marieval school in Saskatchewan, western Canada, Kennedy was forced to strip naked with the other boys and had his long, curly hair shaved off. At night, “keepers” would sexually abuse the children in their large dormitory while their friends listened in terror. Once, Kennedy saw the body of a small child that had been wrapped in a sheet and thrown in a hole in the ground. On another occasion, his best friend was taken by a keeper and never came back. Kennedy, now 62, says the 751 bodies found at his school “are my alumni, and I have to speak to ensure that this will never, ever happen again”.