And make no mistake, the residential schools were first and foremost Christian. Those who ministered to the Indians a century ago did so, like Jean de Brébeuf three centuries before, out of a sincere concern for the salvation of their souls. The political utility recognized by the Canadian government—that, as one bureaucrat put it early on, “the North American Indian cannot be civilized or preserved in a state of civilization (including habits of industry and sobriety) except in connection with, if not by the influence of, not only religious instruction and sentiment but of religious feelings”—is secondary. Likewise, the certain fact that souls were saved by the missionaries, the enduring belief of Christians that the Gospel is true and must be spread, is paramount; everything else is secondary.
Whatever good was present at the Ossossané ossuary—where those who had not yet encountered the fullness of Truth honored their dead as best they knew how—is increased a thousandfold in the cemeteries of the residential schools, where baptized Christians were given Christian burials. Whatever natural good was present in the piety and community of the pagan past is an infinitesimal fraction of the grace rendered unto those pagans’ descendants who have been received into the Church of Christ. Whatever sacrifices were exacted in pursuit of that grace—the suffocation of a noble pagan culture; an increase in disease and bodily death due to government negligence; even the sundering of natural families—is worth it.