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      Residential schools and the effects on Indigenous health and well-being in Canada—a scoping review

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          The history of residential schools has been identified as having long lasting and intergenerational effects on the physical and mental well-being of Indigenous populations in Canada. Our objective was to identify the extent and range of research on residential school attendance on specific health outcomes and the populations affected.


          A scoping review of the empirical peer-reviewed literature was conducted, following the methodological framework of Arksey and O’Malley (2005). For this review, nine databases were used: Bibliography of Native North Americans, Canadian Health Research Collection, CINAHL, Google Scholar, Indigenous Studies Portal, PubMed, Scopus, Statistics Canada, and Web of Science. Citations that did not focus on health and residential school among a Canadian Indigenous population were excluded. Papers were coded using the following categories: Indigenous identity group, geography, age-sex, residential school attendance, and health status.


          Sixty-one articles were selected for inclusion in the review. Most focused on the impacts of residential schooling among First Nations, but some included Métis and Inuit. Physical health outcomes linked to residential schooling included poorer general and self-rated health, increased rates of chronic and infectious diseases. Effects on mental and emotional well-being included mental distress, depression, addictive behaviours and substance mis-use, stress, and suicidal behaviours.


          The empirical literature can be seen as further documenting the negative health effects of residential schooling, both among former residential school attendees and subsequent generations. Future empirical research should focus on developing a clearer understanding of the aetiology of these effects, and particularly on identifying the characteristics that lead people and communities to be resilient to them.

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          Most cited references 57

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              Rethinking resilience from indigenous perspectives.

              The notions of resilience that have emerged in developmental psychology and psychiatry in recent years require systematic rethinking to address the distinctive cultures, geographic and social settings, and histories of adversity of indigenous peoples. In Canada, the overriding social realities of indigenous peoples include their historical rootedness to a specific place (with traditional lands, communities, and transactions with the environment) and the profound displacements caused by colonization and subsequent loss of autonomy, political oppression, and bureaucratic control. We report observations from an ongoing collaborative project on resilience in Inuit, Métis, Mi'kmaq, and Mohawk communities that suggests the value of incorporating indigenous constructs in resilience research. These constructs are expressed through specific stories and metaphors grounded in local culture and language; however, they can be framed more generally in terms of processes that include: regulating emotion and supporting adaptation through relational, ecocentric, and cosmocentric concepts of self and personhood; revisioning collective history in ways that valorize collective identity; revitalizing language and culture as resources for narrative self-fashioning, social positioning, and healing; and renewing individual and collective agency through political activism, empowerment, and reconciliation. Each of these sources of resilience can be understood in dynamic terms as emerging from interactions between individuals, their communities, and the larger regional, national, and global systems that locate and sustain indigenous agency and identity. This social-ecological view of resilience has important implications for mental health promotion, policy, and clinical practice.

                Author and article information

                Public Health Rev
                Public Health Rev
                Public Health Reviews
                BioMed Central (London )
                2 March 2017
                2 March 2017
                : 38
                [1 ]ISNI 0000 0004 1936 8884, GRID grid.39381.30, Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics, Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, , University of Western Ontario, ; London, Ontario Canada
                [2 ]ISNI 0000 0004 1936 8884, GRID grid.39381.30, Department of Paediatrics, Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, , University of Western Ontario, ; London, Ontario Canada
                [3 ]GRID grid.413953.9, Children’s Health Research Institute, ; London, Ontario Canada
                [4 ]ISNI 0000 0000 8644 1405, GRID grid.46078.3d, Department of Sociology and Legal Studies, , University of Waterloo, ; Waterloo, Ontario Canada
                [5 ]ISNI 0000 0000 8644 1405, GRID grid.46078.3d, School of Public Health and Health Systems, , University of Waterloo, ; Waterloo, Ontario Canada
                © The Author(s). 2017

                Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

                Funded by: The Western Libraries Open Access Fund
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