Canada apologizes to aboriginal peoples

Written by  //  June 12, 2008  //  Canada, Education, Government & Governance, Public Policy, Rights & Social justice  //  Comments Off on Canada apologizes to aboriginal peoples

The apology (excerpts of text)

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper (R) and Assembly of First Nations Chief Phil Fontaine (C) attend a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada, June 11, 2008. Stephen Harper delivered an official apology Wednesday for thousands of aboriginal victims of residential schools in history. Residential school survivors and native representatives, some wearing traditional clothing, attended the apology ceremony. [Xinhua]
‘We are sorry’

(Globe & Mail) Prime Minister Stephen Harper had yet to utter a single word of Canada’s apology to former Indian residential schools students when the cheering began. Native drumming and shouts turned into loud, simultaneous clapping. Raw emotion bursting for an apology decades overdue. There were many smiles.
For the sexual and physical abuse that occurred at the schools, Canada apologized. For the efforts to wipe out aboriginal languages and culture in the name of assimilation, Mr. Harper expressed remorse.
But aboriginal eyes in the now quiet House of Commons room began to tear when the Prime Minister acknowledged the ongoing, generational impacts of residential schools.
I choose to accept the apology and move on, forgiving those who sexually and physically abused me in the Quebec residential school
I was taken away from my parents at a young age to attend La Tuque Indian Residential School, situated in central Quebec, approximately 500 kilometres from my home community of Mistissini.
The federal government wanted to take the Indian out of me. It did not succeed. I know that I know who I am. I am eeyou, a human being, son of a great hunter, and member of the Cree Nation.
The federal government wanted to assimilate me into the Canadian body politic. It did not succeed. I love my country, my land and my people.
The federal government wanted our peoples to disappear because of our title to our lands and resources. It did not succeed. Our peoples are still here to assert our rights. We are still in the way. We are not going away.
Aboriginal leaders hail historic apology
Harper’s apology signals ‘new dawn’ in Canada, Fontaine says
Amid tears and solemn silence, burning sage and banging drums, aboriginal leaders hailed Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s apology for the residential school system Wednesday as a turning point in the history of relations between natives and other Canadians.
Making parliamentary history by speaking on the floor of the House of Commons, representatives of First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples welcomed the apology in which Harper recounted the legacy of the century-long assimilation policy that wrenched 150,000 aboriginal children from their parents and forced them to live in schools where their language and culture were banned and where many were abused physically and sexually.
“The Government of Canada sincerely apologizes and asks the forgiveness of the Aboriginal Peoples of this country for failing them so profoundly,” Harper said. He used five languages – Ojibwa, Cree, Inuktutuk, French and English – to tell the estimated 87,000 living survivors of the school system and their families and communities that “we are sorry.”
Prime minister’s apology did Canada proud
Calgary Herald
Although it was a cool, grey and drippy day in Calgary, Stephen Harper’s eloquent words, sincere demeanour and deeply moved expression brought out the sun for all Canadians as he said the most powerful words in any language: “I am sorry.” The words are only elevated in importance by the fact they were addressed to the First Nations people of Canada who have endured such a harmful wrong for so long, and with such restraint.
The account below gives the most detail of this unprecedented event wherein the leaders of all parties joined in the apology.
PM cites ‘sad chapter’ in apology for residential schools
Stephen Harper stood in the House of Commons on Wednesday to say sorry to former students of native residential schools — in the first formal apology from a Canadian prime minister over the federally financed program.
“Mr. Speaker, I stand before you today to offer an apology to former students of Indian residential schools,” Harper said in Ottawa, surrounded by a small group of aboriginal leaders and former students, some of whom wept as he spoke.
“The treatment of children in Indian residential schools is a sad chapter in our history.
“Today, we recognize that this policy of assimilation was wrong, has caused great harm, and has no place in our country,” he said to applause.
“The government now recognizes that the consequences of the Indian residential schools policy were profoundly negative and that this policy has had a lasting and damaging impact on aboriginal culture, heritage and language,” Harper said.
Harper’s speech was followed by a statement from Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion.
“Today’s apology is about a past that should have been completely different,” he said. “But it must be also about the future. It must be about collective reconciliation and fundamental changes.”
NDP Leader Jack Layton denounced the residential schools program as “racist,” and called Wednesday’s event an important moment for Canada.
“It is the moment where we as a Parliament and as a country assume the responsibility for one of the most shameful eras of our history,” Layton said in an emotional address.
Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe offered his own apology, adding that the most meaningful expressions of regret are followed by concrete action.
Phil Fontaine responds to the government apology on residential schools
For the generations that will follow us, we bear witness today in this House that our survival as First Nations peoples in this land is affirmed forever.
Therefore, the significance of this day is not just about what has been but, equally important, what is to come.
Never again will this House consider us the Indian problem just for being who we are.
We heard the Government of Canada take full responsibility for this dreadful chapter in our shared history.
We heard the prime minister declare that this will never happen again. Finally, we heard Canada say it is sorry.
Brave survivors, through the telling of their painful stories, have stripped white supremacy of its authority and legitimacy.
The irresistibility of speaking truth to power is real. Today is not the result of a political game. Instead, it is something that shows the righteousness and importance of our struggle. We know we have many difficult issues to handle.
There are many fights still to be fought. What happened today signifies a new dawn in the relationship between us and the rest of Canada. We are and always have been an indispensable part of the Canadian identity.
Finding their voice
Canada delivers an official apology to its increasingly assertive indigenous peoples

(The Economist) FEW would dispute that Canada’s shameful treatment of many of its aboriginals has left a stain on its image. Between 1870 and 1996, an estimated 150,000 indigenous children were wrenched from their homes and sent to Christian boarding schools, where many were sexually and physically abused. Yet until Stephen Harper, Canada’s Conservative prime minister, rose in the House of Commons on June 11th to deliver an unqualified official apology to assembled leaders of Canada’s 1m First Nation, Inuit and mixed-race Métis people, no Canadian leader had taken this step.
Parallels will be drawn with a similar act of contrition by Kevin Rudd, Australia’s Labor prime minister in February. But the two differ in important respects. Australia offered an apology, but no compensation, to 55,000 mixed-race children forced into white foster homes. Mr Harper’s apology follows a C$2 billion ($2 billion) settlement in 2005 of a lawsuit by former students of schools set up, in Mr Harper’s words, “to kill the Indian in the child” by assimilating them into the dominant culture.
Canada’s Harper apologizes to tribes for maltreatment
Canadian government assimilation programs targeted roughly 150,000 children over the course of a century, devastating the country’s native population and cultures. In a speech to the House of Commons Wednesday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper noted the damage caused by the policy and asked for forgiveness on behalf of the country’s government. Los Angeles Times (free registration) (6/12)
Canada apologises for abuse of aboriginal children
OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada, addressing one of the darkest chapters in its history, formally apologised on Wednesday for forcing 150,000 aboriginal children into grim residential schools, where many say they were sexually and physically abused.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper told a Parliamentary chamber packed with legislators and aboriginal representatives that there could be no excuses for what happened at the church-run schools, which mainly operated from the 1870s to the 1970s.
Prime minister apologizes to native Canadians
(NYT) OTTAWA (AP) — Canada’s native leaders say the government’s apology for a policy that forcibly removed aboriginal children from their homes to assimilate them into Canadian society makes it possible ”to end our racial nightmare together.”

Comments are closed.