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Jean Chrétien Says He Never Heard About Abuse In Residential Schools While He Was Minister


Former prime minister Jean Chrétien said Sunday that during his tenure as minister of what was then Indian Affairs, he never heard anything about abuse happening in residential schools.

Chrétien made the comments during an appearance on the popular Radio-Canada talk show, Tout le Monde en Parle.

“This problem was never mentioned when I was minister. Never,” said Chrétien, now 87, of his time in the department from 1968 to 1974.

During the French interview, Chrétien appeared to draw a comparison between his own experience attending a conventional college boarding school as a teenager to that of Indigenous children who were forced to attend residential schools.

“I ate baked beans and oatmeal. And to be sure, it was hard living in a boarding school, extremely hard. Here in Quebec, we had to [in order to get into university],” he said.

“In Shawinigan, we didn’t have a college. We had to go to Trois-Rivières or to Joliette,” he explained. “We had no choice. It was hard but my parents insisted I go to university and I had to do it.”

Chrétien said while he didn’t enjoy sleeping in a dorm with 200 others, he “never had a problem.”

Stories of physical and sexual abuse of Indigenous children in residential schools were documented in the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

More recently, discoveries of unmarked graves on residential school sites have once again brought the issue to the forefront.

Innu author critical of former PM’s comments

The former prime minister’s comment drew the ire of another guest on the talk show, Innu author Michel Jean.

“Respectfully, I don’t think Mr. Chrétien knows exactly what residential schools are,” he said.

“The word boarding school makes people think it was a school where we teach people to write, but it wasn’t that.”