Off to School

Off to School

| 8 min

This short film from 1958 compiles 3 short reportages on different ways kids are schooled in remote areas. To School by Boat follows children of isolated fishing hamlets along a stretch of British Columbia coastline as they travel to school by sea-going bus. In Classroom on Rails, we hop along a railway coach that brings school to children in a logging area of northern Ontario. Northern Schooldays introduces us to First Nations children educated in a residential school in Moose Factory.

Please note that this film was produced in 1958 and reflects the attitudes and thinking of its era. To modern audiences, parts of the film may be perceived as offensive, but it must be seen as a cultural product of the era in which it was produced. The perspectives of Canadians (and the NFB) have evolved and become more conscious of Indigenous rights, realities and points of view since the making of the film. Through its rich collection of Indigenous-made films, available at Indigenous Cinema, the NFB continues to strive to challenge stereotypes about Indigenous people and accurately depict the diverse experiences of Indigenous communities.


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  • cdehaan5

    Braveheart. I am sorry but I must add to your comment. Yes, as a graduate student at a Ontario University with a focus of study on Residential Schools, I agree that many terrible experiences darken this tragic Canadian history. The history of the schools is over 100 years old and changes through time and denomination. 4 of Canada's churches ran the schools, even after the government left. As part of the original numbered treaties with Indigenous Canadians education, supplied by the government was negociated. However, Indigenous leaders envisoned a equal amount of English education and Indigenous teachings. They were and are not a stupid people and realized that their children must have some form of English education to survive in the coming world of white Christian society. What went wrong centered around the presumption that English and Christianity was all that Indigenous children needed to bring themsleves into the world evolving around them. you must look at the history in context. Racism, although it was worng, made alot of decisions when the schools started, epecially in some of the denominations. Although not beaten for speaking their language many non-indigenous children in schools at the same time suffered through corporal punishment and abuse. As the years progressed, yes mandatory attendance did emerge, as it did for non-native chidlren. Those parents were also threatened with punishment if they did not send their children to school. Truant officers were quite the threat until later in the 20th century. What makes the biggest difference is that many of non-native children did not disappear and never return home and their living conditions could be better. However, as the years progressed the schools, under closer srcutiny improved. Many students at the residential schools were orphans, or from social services. The Truth and Reconcillation interviews do show that students lives were better at these schools and their futures more promising than if they had staye on the reserve or in the foster system. Day schools on the reserves continued to establish for local education. By the 40's -80's many of the distance schools, Northern Ontario provided edcuation to many students who would not get anything on the reserve. Reserve life did not afford students the life their ancesters had on the land. Terrible experiences do find a focus, however stu8dent interviews do show that positive experiences did exist for these school children. a good resource with positive experiences is found in Teaching "Wigwams" Sorry for any spelling mistakes. I completely agree that there are shameful histories surrounding Residential Schools in Canada, that is not the entire story though.

    cdehaan5, 9 Jul 2012
  • Albert Ohayon

    Brravehart, Please note that the film Off to School was produced in 1958 and reflects the attitudes and thinking of its era. It must be seen in this context . Albert Ohayon, NFB collection analyst

    Albert Ohayon, 27 Jui 2011
  • brravehart

    This is definitely interesting. But I have to say the last piece about the residential school makes me very angry. To say that residential schools are depicted incorrectly would be an understatement. Though I can't speak to this school specifically, a majority of the residential schools were cruel, abusive in all forms, and are a sad and shameful piece of Canadian history. The kids were taken from their families, the "Church of England" and it's type of religion were forced on the kids, and the children's native ways, language, and sometimes even their names were forcefully taken from them. It was replaced by "the right way" of being, which meant to be like the white man. I think it is in poor taste that this clip is done like a promotional video for the residential schools. When really we just stole a generation of children from their parents, their security and everything they knew and loved.

    brravehart, 22 Jui 2011

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