What is Canada’s residential schools scandal Prince Charles referred to?

As Prince Charles and Camilla touched down in Canada, indigenous groups in the nation called for the royal visitors to acknowledge the harm colonisation and the residential schools have done.

ITV News' Royal Editor Chris Ship explains the dark history behind the establishments.

The term ‘residential schools’ refers to a dark period in Canada’s history which began under British colonial rule.

It is now commonly referred to as ‘cultural genocide’.

It was a system of enforced schooling which began to take hold for the children of the country’s indigenous people.

Now referred to as First Nations, Inuit and Métis people, their children were forcibly taken from their families and sent to residential schools and hostels.

The system was established in the early 19th Century by the British colonisers in what was then called Upper Canada.

It was a blatant drive to destroy indigenous culture, separate the children from their community roots and school them in the Christian way.

At the time, Canada was a British colony, but over the following decades and in the years following Confederation, the state-sponsored residential school system grew as colonisation spread to more and more indigenous territories.

At one point, the system was in operation in almost every province and territory in Canada.

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The schools attempted to convert the children to Christianity and deliberately suppress their culture, language and tradition.

The children in them suffered malnutrition, periods of starvation, emotional and sexual abuse and neglect.

Many died in the schools, and others died after fleeing them attempting to get back to their families.

The Anglican Church of Canada, which has its roots in the Church of England, was among the organisations which ran such schools.

Whilst the process of enforced schooling for indigenous children was gradually phased out and replaced with a policy of integration. It was only in 1996 that the last residential closed was closed.

In recent years, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada was set up to establish the extent of the harm and suffering caused.

Earlier this month, the Archbishop of Canterbury travelled to Canada and met with many survivors of the residential schools.

Justin Welby said his heart was “filled with a sense of darkness, shame and sadness” as he acknowledged the “grievous sins of the Church of England in its historic form”.

“I am so sorry that the Church participated in the failed attempt… to dehumanise and abuse those we should have embraced as brothers and sisters”, the Archbishop said.

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall meet Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Credit: PA

Some campaigners for Canada’s First Nations, Inuit and Métis people are now asking the Prince of Wales to say something similar while he’s in the country on behalf of the Queen.

On Tuesday, Prince Charles did not issue a similar apology but said in a speech: “We must find new ways to come to terms with the darker and more difficult aspects of our past”.