Canada examines abuses of church-run schools

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A truth and reconciliation commission is examining a decades-long government policy that required Canadian Indians to attend schools where students were forced to lose their cultural identity and routinely were subjected to abuse.

The commission's five-year mandate began Sunday and its work starts Monday. Members will eventually travel across Canada to hear stories from former students, teachers and others. The goal is to give survivors a forum to tell their stories and educate Canadians about a grim period in the country's history.

"It's the darkest, most tragic chapter in Canadian history and virtually no one knows about this," Phil Fontaine, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, told The Associated Press.

From the 19th century until the 1970s, more than 150,000 aboriginal children were required to attend state-funded Christian schools in a painful attempt to rid them of their native cultures and languages and integrate them into Canadian society.

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