OTTAWA — NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus says comments by Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole on the original mission of residential schools amount to "revisionist race-baiting."
In a video posted to the Ryerson Conservatives Facebook group last month, O'Toole said the government-sponsored schools aimed initially to "provide education" for Indigenous children but later devolved into harmful practices.
The boarding schools, which were launched by Christian churches and the federal government in the 1880s and run for more than a century, sought to convert and assimilate Indigenous children into Canadian culture and saw them suffer widespread physical and sexual abuse.
Angus says it is "false" and "very concerning" to suggest that education was the prime goal of the school system, of which Ryerson University namesake Egerton Ryerson was a key architect.
O'Toole spokeswoman Chelsea Tucker says the Tory leader is a champion for reconciliation and takes the schools' "horrific history" seriously, while also warning against the "damage cancel culture can have" on free speech.
The hashtag #ResignOToole was trending on Twitter on Tuesday night, and NDP MP Leah Gazan called on him to step down.