2] Attendance was mandatory from 1894 to 1947. The network was funded by the Canadian government‘s Department of Indian Affairs and administered by Christian churches. The school system was created to isolate Indigenous children from the influence of their own Indigenous culture and religion in order to assimilate them into the dominant Canadian culture.: 42 
Over the course of the system’s more than hundred-year existence, around 150,000 children were placed in residential schools nationally.: 2–3 By the 1930s about 30 percent of Indigenous children were believed to be attending residential schools. The number of school-related deaths remains unknown due to incomplete records. Estimates range from 3,200 to over 30,000.
The system had its origins in laws enacted before Confederation, but it was primarily active from the passage of the Indian Act in 1876, under Prime Minister Alexander MacKenzie. Under Prime Minister John A. Macdonald, the government adopted the residential industrial school system of the United States, a partnership between the government and various church organizations. An amendment to the Indian Act in 1894, under Prime Minister Mackenzie Bowell, made attendance at day schools, industrial schools, or residential schools compulsory for First Nations children. Due to the remote nature of many communities, school locations meant that for some families, residential schools were the only way to comply.