Former prime minister Jean Chrétien said that while he was minister of Indian Affairs, he never heard anything about abuse happening in residential schools.
Chrétien made the comments during an appearance on the popular Radio-Canada talk show, Tout le Monde en Parle.
"This problem was never mentioned when I was minister. Never," said Chrétien, now 87, of his time in the department from 1968 to 1974.
Chrétien drew a comparison between his experience attending a college boarding school as a teenager to that of Indigenous children at residential schools.
"I ate baked beans and oatmeal. And to be sure, it was hard living in a boarding school, extremely hard. Here in Quebec, we had to [in order to get into university]," he said.
"In Shawinigan, we didn't have a college. We had to go to Trois-Rivières or to Joliette," he explained. "We had no choice. It was hard but my parents insisted I go to university and I had to do it."
Chrétien said while he didn't enjoy sleeping in a dorm with 200 others, he "never had a problem."
Innu author Michel Jean, also on the show , was upset.
"Respectfully, I don't think Mr. Chrétien knows exactly what residential schools are," he said. "The word boarding school makes people think it was a school where we teach people to write, but it wasn't that."
He said that while Chrétien might have ate poor-quality food, it didn't compare to the situation of Indigenous children.
"There is someone in my family who attended a residential school in Fort George who was sexually assaulted every day for eight years by a nun," said Jean. "It was called a boarding school, but it was not a school."