We Were Children

Warning: this film contains disturbing content and is recommended for audiences 16 years of age and older. Parental discretion, and/or watching this film within a group setting, is strongly advised. If you need counselling support, please contact Health Canada.

In this feature film, the profound impact of the Canadian government’s residential school system is conveyed through the eyes of two children who were forced to face hardships beyond their years. As young children, Lyna and Glen were taken from their homes and placed in church-run boarding schools, where they suffered years of physical, sexual and emotional abuse, the effects of which persist in their adult lives. We Were Children gives voice to a national tragedy and demonstrates the incredible resilience of the human spirit.

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Comments

  • TurningSky

    “For all its merit, my question is how come Aboriginal people were not involved in writing, directing or producing it? Check the credits. The NFB... have to wake-up and realize that this is another form of colonialism.” — TurningSky, 25 Sep 2014

  • SuperMullein

    “This film was incredibly saddening...i had to shake my head when it was over. this is real and this kind of thing still happens, don't ever forget that simply because it isn't happening right in front of you. Harper apologized but we must practice that apology to make it worth anything at all....let people be.” — SuperMullein, 24 Apr 2014

  • carjan

    “I tried watching. Made it in about 10 minutes and had to shut it off. Hurts my heart too much. I've heard various speakers and heard various stories and it is terribly shameful that such blatant arrogance and ignorance led to such a huge injustice. ” — carjan, 7 Apr 2014

  • margomargo8

    “My dad went to Residential..I cried..cried and cried..my heart is aching....The world is big..why? how? I was sickened to my stomache with a bad belly ache after watching this..My eyes are puffy from crying..I hurt so bad to know my dad and his brothers went through this..I sat here for a long time looking at my son who is only 9 years old and bawled...I can never know what my dad went through by I have his drawing and his story of what happened to him.The abuse he endured when he was only 9 years old.I am so so angry...There is no God..God wouldn't do this to our children.I am the only god to my children and I promise I will protect them,teach them and make sure they are on the right path..I and my children will get our culture back for you dad.My dad passed away a couple of years and did not make it during the settlement the government gave him. He died not hearing an apology or getting his settlement.He died not knowing if he was believed or not. Yes Im furious that my dad was beaten and raped in this jail like school.How can I ever let my dad know? This movie opened up so much understanding and its like genocide to children.I have so many questions.The white man who called us savages...Did they have any empathy? How can any ONE person in this world let this happen to so many of our children! ” — margomargo8, 26 Nov 2013

  • yingzhao

    “I'm so shocked after I watched the movie. I just heard about some bad things happened with the aboriginal residence schools before, now I totally understand why Aboriginals are hopeless and helpless. As a Chinese immigrant, I know that similar things like head taxes happened with Chinese community as well. Before I came to Canada, I knew a little about Canada history, just know it was said that Canada is the best country in the world to live. After I watched this film, I felt angry with the government, and feel shamed about what they had done for the aboriginal children. I don't think the conflicts between the government and aboriginals will be gone because of the Prime Minister's apology in 2008. But I feel it is better than before now. At least they introspected that something was wrong in the past. I feel hopeful for the future. As a visible minority woman, I want to stand up for our rights against discriminations in Canada.” — yingzhao, 26 Oct 2013

  • lindsay1968

    “The film is excellent. I will tell you that through most of it I thought I might throw up. I cannot stop crying for the children. I teach this information to my students and stress the importance of this horrible ordeal, but I have never experienced information like what you see on this film. As a mother of two young children it absolutely breaks my heart. As a white woman it makes me ashamed of my culture. This is going to take a great deal of time for me to come to peace with this.” — lindsay1968, 16 Oct 2013

  • WhiteStar

    “Wow, this really messed me up. For years knew about the boarding schools but have to admit, I didn't really get the horrible trauma. Now I'm so angry I want to scream! I want the world to see this. They need to know what Canada and the US are quilty of! There needs to be proper restitution not just a stupid apology. All people should be marching in the streets demanding this! I'm gladly buying the DVD!” — WhiteStar, 27 May 2013

  • carey

    “I wanted to vomit, I cried and I smiled for the few that offered some respite to these children. I want to spit in the faces of those that were entrusted with God's children and abused this trust, how dare they! These people have caused irreparable damage to Aboriginal peoples and at the same time have caused mistrust with Christianity. To me there is no greater crime than the hurting of children and abusing the trust children have in us. To hurt and abuse any vulnerable being is unconscionable. As a non-Aboriginal and a Catholic, I am ashamed that this went on at all let alone for so long. I am so happy to have watched this film, it was difficult to get through but I must never forget that as painful as it is for me to watch it, many suffered and endured far worse that led up to the making of this movie and it is out of respect for them that I watched it and would encourage (and dare) every human being to watch and understand what the term “residential schools” means to an Aboriginal. I am disgusted with anyone that had anything to do with hurting these children (be it emotional, physical, spiritual and/or sexual). Thank you for this movie of enlightenment.” — carey, 14 May 2013

  • Bluehen

    “On the Rez u hear bits & pieces from elders, but there is disconnect from emotion. Now I know why. I will have this lump in throat and hurt heart for a long time to come.” — Bluehen, 20 Apr 2013

  • 209hunter

    “am heartbroken words can't express how I feel after watching this film. it hurts me thinking so many kids got taken away from there parents. why whould the goverment send them there and still they are trying to takeing everthing. our land our rights when will it be enough.” — 209hunter, 4 Apr 2013

  • DebbieS

    “I could only watch this film bits at a time. I was greatly moved in watching it and I am only hoping more like this can be made. My mother went to the Prince Albert Indian Residential School from 1954 to 1970. She has permanent hearing loss due to trauma in getting her ears banged for speaking English. She learned how to CLEAN. She did not learn the value of money, never went to the store to buy herself ANYTHING. She did not learn how to cook. She did not learn what family meant yet when she married 3 years later, she had to be a wife & mother. She did so well, she is one of the greatest cooks I know. She taught her children well which is remarkable considering she didn't have much to start with. The greatest thing she taught me was to NEVER give up. I cry thinking of this value she taught me, she in turn taught me to be a survivor. I am University educated and have a good life, my life could have turned out so differently if it were not for my parents. She did not teach her children her language. It is funny for someone who has pronounced hearing loss, when others speak to her in Cree, she hears. She ate things I wouldn't feed any animal. She is the oldest of 8 children, her sister went for a while to the residential school but, my mother was the only one in her family who attended for such long time period. I always wonder how her siblings reacted to her coming home on the few times she went home. Some of this is too painful for me to ask & then I wonder what do her siblings remember. Her aunties, her uncles, what they though. Many have deceased & I wonder could I talk to them and would they be willing to tell their stories. What was it like for those still on the reserve to see children one day and the next day...gone. Mom only went home once or maybe twice a year and that was by plane. She tells me there is pages and pages of documentation of interviews for her residential school settlement. This has come and gone, I feel the money was not important at all, it gave her validation that what was done was wrong. Money didn't mean anything, what was done was wrong, I can't, I can't, I can't fathom those 10 years she endured.” — DebbieS, 31 Mar 2013

  • Zengarden17

    “A very disturbing film about a story that should have an ending that includes justice, redemption, and renewal. If you are a teacher, you should definitely watch it before you use it for classroom teaching purposes. The material is raw and you need to know your students well before you show this. Lots of time and patience required in debriefing this after the screening.” — Zengarden17, 28 Mar 2013

  • cjcourt

    “I have heard many stories including some of my parents stories of their residential school experiences however, this movie was still very painful and effected me on a much deeper level. No words can be spoken to explain how this history was okay and for so many to heal from....:(” — cjcourt, 25 Mar 2013

  • cj

    “Wanted to view this on my computer/laptop but it is unavailable in my area..(Michigan) . I see that I am not the only one wondering if it will be available for viewing .... waiting to hear/read of a solution to this ... please. ” — cj, 25 Mar 2013

  • pattyannr

    “This was a very disturbing film. Disturbing because it was real and happened to real children. So innocent to be thrust into this environment. My heart goes out to all of them who had to go through this. Thank you for bringing this dark part of our history to our attention as we can't learn from our mistakes if it is kept hidden. The title of the film says it all "We were children" and such lovely children at that and did not deserve to be treated like this by those in authority. They had no recourse and were at their mercy. I can't imagine why we still allow priests to be involved in any way with our children. We just keep hearing news report after news report of abuses in the past and present so we can assume there will be more in the future. Keep them as far away as possible from our children. How many abuses have to happen before we get a clue.” — pattyannr, 25 Mar 2013

  • ccrandall

    “I would like to purchase this film any suggestion on a place to buy it at?” — ccrandall, 24 Mar 2013

  • Susanjayne

    “I live in New York State, would love to rent this movie! Please help. ” — Susanjayne, 22 Mar 2013

  • jenilee

    “The part where the little girl walked into the boys infermary is a very familiar story i use to hear from my uncle who attended Labret along with my mother and aunties. I was so heart broken and i too now understand why we never admitted to be indian we were every other nationality but native. It took a lot of work, many years and still healing. Great documentary, hands up to Lyna and late Glen for thier story. A story that many of us relate to.” — jenilee, 22 Mar 2013

  • gegallawassee

    “I have to start by saying, how can we let these horrible crimes not be brought to justice? If Hitler and the Nazis were tried, how is it that these people are not put trial? I grew up in a christian school on the rez, and I must say that I now know why my mother and grandparents felt ashamed of being native, and why the language was not spoken regularly. Having gone to christian school, I too have been abused by the nuns and Jesuits. My heart goes out to all my relations. Wela'lin.” — gegallawassee, 22 Mar 2013

  • tsmithrevet

    “WOW that was the hardest film I have ever watched. So much of my own grandma's story was their stories. Thank you so much Lyna and Glen for telling your story and the courage it took. Hopefully this will encourage other's who have not told their story to find their voice. RIP Glen and I love my family.” — tsmithrevet, 22 Mar 2013

  • CCs_Princess

    “The film is supposed to be shown again Sunday night on APTN.” — CCs_Princess, 22 Mar 2013

  • survivor

    “I am a Residential School Survivor and did nine years. I identify with everything. Our school was bigger, more kids. The playground was separated: boys on one side, girls on another. Separated by a big fence. Food was terrible!! I have been on my healing journey since 1982...it will be a life time thing. I cried as I remember my mother bathing me and putting new clothes on me. I never knew what happened to my new clothes. This movie has to be exposed to non-natives....going to CBC would be a suggestion. ” — survivor, 21 Mar 2013

  • Tommig

    “I want to hug my children and my grandchildren and I am so grateful that they get to live with me and I didn't have to lose my children to the schools like my ancestors. The People in this film are younger than I am --when the woman said "I wanted to be in Hell with my people." Because we were taught that is what where our ancestors are I thought oh my I wasn't the only one that felt that way. So that was DDT the put in our hair.” — Tommig, 21 Mar 2013

  • MonaLiza

    “I was not able to see the film because we do not have access to APTN. I would love to see the movie. I am a survivor of St. Michael's Residential School in Alert Bay...When will the be available for sale or for download? Thank you to all of you who put this film together. ” — MonaLiza, 20 Mar 2013

  • robinber

    “Powerful film. I could only think of my own kids who fortunately have not had to experience this but did experience rasicm in schools. ” — robinber, 20 Mar 2013

  • charleyvee

    “When will this be available for download exactly? Missed the premiere would love to watch it before sunday!!” — charleyvee, 20 Mar 2013

  • Tanman

    “its a real moving show really intense i recommend any one who wants to know canadain history or native american history to watch it ” — Tanman, 20 Mar 2013

  • anitz81

    “This is a valuable film i just watched on APTN. How can we access a download? I heard that a download was available for a fee.......” — anitz81, 20 Mar 2013

  • bernieanderson

    “I really wish, I could download it or even just watch it!!! ” — bernieanderson, 19 Mar 2013

  • ididntknow

    “I feel broken. I now understand why my mother was "embarrassed" to tell me she was native until I was 15 years old. I never understood why she kept that a "secret". Now I understand :-( ” — ididntknow, 19 Feb 2013

  • blackcrazyhorse

    “When is this film showed on air? please message me?” — blackcrazyhorse, 13 Feb 2013

  • kabeaudo

    “Sadly enough this still goes on today and the government lets it. Myself, my sibblings and many others are not aboriginal but we suffered the same way as is depicted here, in the name of God. This place still exists and the government of Quebec allows it even after they were dragged through the courts and shown to have ruined many of our lives. It would be nice if NFB could expose them too. They called themselves the Apostles of Infinite Love.” — kabeaudo, 1 Dec 2012

  • Wahienhawi

    “When will we be able to see the full movie of We Were Children? Really nicely done! The picture quality is great! Good job! Proud of you all! ” — Wahienhawi, 2 Nov 2012

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Film Credits

director
Tim Wolochatiuk
writer
Jason Sherman
producer
Kyle Irving
David Christensen
director of photography
Jeremy Benning
Kim Bell
production designer
Gordon Wilding
editor
John Whitcher
music composer
Shawn Pierce
sound designer
Daniel Pellerin
cast
Lyna Hart
Glen Anaquod
Alicia Hamelin
Jade Hamelin
Jennie Morin
Rebecca Gibson
Ross McMillan
René Batson
Bruin Montour
Justin Ducharme
Dustin Courchene
Tyrone Brooks
Rachel Seenie
Glenn Cochrane
Fawnda Neckoway
Maggie Nagle
Shawney Moar
Kohl Bohemier
Tasha Weight
Robert Kostyra
John B. Lowe
Curtis Moore
Jon Ted Wynne
Kayla Contois-Moar
Kristen Harris
Carlos Swampy
Daina Leitold
Jeff Skinner
Jenelle McPherson
Rivers Thomas
Darcy Fehr
Lois H. Brothers
Ashley Hirt
Darren M. Felbel
Ramsey Bruce
Alice Dano
researcher
Vanessa Hill
Sam Vint
Tobias Duggan
set decorator
Scott Rossell
key makeup
Alisha Talbot
Brenda Magalas
key hair stylist
Pina Robinson
costume designer
Jody Chalmers
Katelynd Johnston
Patti Henderson
sound effects editing
Jeremy MacLaverty
foley artist
John Sievert
re-recording mixer
Howard Rissin
makeup
Angie Lindsay
sound recordist
Anita Lubosh

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