The Assembly of First Nations is launching an inquiry into the residential school system and intends to seek reparations for what Ovide Mercredi called “violations of human rights.”

The schools, founded by religious orders, forced First Nations children to abandon their traditions, languages and religions, and were frequently the sites of sexual and physical abuse. They opened at the end of the last century and closed in the 1960s.

“Still today, we can see the perverse effects: numerous dysfunctional native families, the loss of traditions and culture, and alarming rates of suicide and violent death on reserves,” Mercredi told reporters.