Chretien says he never heard of abuse at residential schools during time as minister

Chretien in dark on abuse

Former prime minister Jean Chretien says that when he was in government he was unaware of the abuse that took place in residential schools across the country.

Speaking Sunday on the popular Quebec TV talk show, "Tout le monde en parle,'' Chretien said the issue was never brought to his attention during his time as Indian affairs minister from 1968 to 1974.

He said he knew residential schools existed and how difficult the experience was, drawing a comparison with his own time in boarding school when he was fed baked beans and oatmeal.

The discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves at residential school sites across Canada over the summer reawakened conversations around the discriminatory system designed to assimilate Indigenous children.

Innu author Michel Jean, another guest on the show, criticized Chretien's comparison of residential schools to his boarding school experience, saying the former prime minister doesn't understand the abuse Indigenous children experienced.

The 87-year-old Chretien was invited on the show to talk about his new book.

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