Chretien says he never heard of abuse in residential schools during his time as minister.

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MONTREAL – Former Prime Minister Jean Chretien says that when he was in government he was unaware of the abuse that took place in residential schools across the country.

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Speaking Sunday on the popular Quebec television show, “Tout le monde en parle,” Chretien said the issue was never brought to his attention during his time as minister of Indian affairs from 1968 to 1974.

He said he knew residential schools existed and how difficult the experience was, comparing it to his own time at boarding school when he was fed baked beans and oatmeal.

The discovery of hundreds of nameless graves at residential school sites across Canada over the summer reignited conversations about the discriminatory system designed to assimilate indigenous children.

Innu author Michel Jean, another guest on the show, criticized Chretien’s comparison of residential schools with his boarding school experience, saying the former prime minister does not understand the abuse indigenous children experienced.

Chrétien, 87, was invited to the show to talk about his new book.

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