The Assembly of First Nations is condemning comments made by Conservative leader Erin O’Toole, in which he said to a group of Ryerson University students that the creation of residential schools was to “meant to try to provide an education,” to First Nations children.

“It became a horrible program that really harmed people, and we have to learn from that,” said O’Toole Oct. 30 in virtual discussion. “But we’re not helping anyone by misrepresenting the past.”

National Chief Perry Bellegarde said its disappointing that O’Toole would use the Residential School tragedy to score political points, but that he looked forward to talking with O’Toole in the New Year to help him better understand the harmful legacy of residential schools.

The discussion with university students appears to center on the role Egerton Ryerson played in residential schools and whether buildings named after controversial figures should be renamed.

Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, created the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and apologized in the House of Commons for the residential school system said these schools were designed to separate Indigenous children from their homes, culture and language and assimilate them.  In effect “to kill the Indian in the child.”

O’Toole’s remarks came to light Tuesday after the group “The Ryerson Conservatives” posted to social media the video, the same day the TRC Commissioners came together to mark the fifth-year anniversary of the release of the Final Report.