SERPENT RIVER FIRST NATION, June 11, 2012 /CNW/ - Even four years after
the Residential School apology that Prime Minister Harper made on this
day in June of 2008, First Nations communities are still reeling from
First Nations leaders are not satisfied with outcomes on reconciliation
that the Progressive Conservative government has made since the
apology. Many of those leaders continue to talk about the
multi-dimensional impacts that this policy had imposed on the quality
of life in First Nations across the country nearly a hundred years
after some of these schools were instituted by Canada. And many of them
are saying that the Harper government missed four years of being able
to do much more.
Chief Isadore Day, Wiindawtegowinini, says that many of his First Nation citizens attended Residential School
in Spanish and in Sault Ste. Marie Ontario. Some attended as far away
as Kenora. "Whether or not First Nations children were placed locally
or far away, the impacts were consistently the same - racial
segregation, loss of language and all forms of abuse imposed," says
Day. "Years of traumatic stress and effects of abuse shaped the social
fabric of many of our communities. That often meant re-lived trauma and
cycles of horrid abuse and family dysfunction."
Chief Day has looked at the apology in depth and says that it was a
well-crafted but presumptuous apology that could be evaluated and put
to the test of a "results-based" overview next year, in a fifth-year
study. He encourages other leaders and First Nations advocates to bring
forward a discussion on behalf of survivors and their communities. "We
need to look at the apology and ask the question -- have the effects of
this atrocious policy been mitigated, or do we still have work to do?"
suggests Day. "If we still see poverty, abuse, apprehension of
children, a gap in education outcomes and erosion of language, chances
are that Canada still has work to do in further defining and resourcing
its reconciliation policy."
In Stephen Harper's own words, the 2008 apology:
"Mr. Speaker, I stand before you today to offer an apology to former
students of Indian residential schools.
The treatment of children in Indian residential schools is a sad chapter
in our history.
In the 1870s, the federal government, partly in order to meet its
obligation to educate aboriginal children, began to play a role in the
development and administration of these schools.
Two primary objectives of the residential schools system were to remove
and isolate children from the influence of their homes, families,
traditions and cultures, and to assimilate them into the dominant
These objectives were based on the assumption aboriginal cultures and
spiritual beliefs were inferior and unequal. Indeed, some sought, as it
was infamously said, `to kill the Indian in the child.' Today, we
recognize that this policy of assimilation was wrong, has caused great
harm, and has no place in our country.
Most schools were operated as `joint ventures' with Anglican, Catholic,
Presbyterian or United churches.
The Government of Canada built an educational system in which very young
children were often forcibly removed from their homes, often taken far
from their communities.
Many were inadequately fed, clothed and housed. All were deprived of the
care and nurturing of their parents, grandparents and communities.
First nations, Inuit and Metis languages and cultural practices were
prohibited in these schools.
Tragically, some of these children died while attending residential
schools and others never returned home.
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.
While some former students have spoken positively about their
experiences at residential schools these stories are far overshadowed
by tragic accounts of the emotional, physical and sexual abuse and
neglect of helpless children and their separation from powerless
families and communities.
The legacy of Indian residential schools has contributed to social
problems that continue to exist in many communities today.
It has taken extraordinary courage for the thousands of survivors that
have come forward to speak publicly about the abuse they suffered.
It is a testament to their resilience as individuals and to the strength
of their cultures. Regrettably, many former students are not with us
today and died never having received a full apology from the government
The government recognizes that the absence of an apology has been an
impediment to healing and reconciliation.
Therefore, on behalf of the government of Canada and all Canadians, I
stand before you, in this chamber so central to our life as a country,
to apologize to aboriginal peoples for Canada's role in the Indian
residential schools system.
To the approximately 80,000 living former students, and all family
members and communities, the government of Canada now recognizes that
it was wrong to forcibly remove children from their homes and we
apologize for having done this.
We now recognize that it was wrong to separate children from rich and
vibrant cultures and traditions, that it created a void in many lives
and communities, and we apologize for having done this.
We now recognize that, in separating children from their families, we
undermined the ability of many to adequately parent their own children
and sowed the seeds for generations to follow and we apologize for
having done this.
We now recognize that, far too often, these institutions gave rise to
abuse or neglect and were inadequately controlled, and we apologize for
failing to protect you.
Not only did you suffer these abuses as children, but as you became
parents, you were powerless to protect your own children from suffering
the same experience, and for this we are sorry.
The burden of this experience has been on your shoulders for far too
long. The burden is properly ours as a government, and as a country.
There is no place in Canada for the attitudes that inspired the Indian
residential schools system to ever again prevail.
You have been working on recovering from this experience for a long time
and in a very real sense, we are now joining you on this journey.
The government of Canada sincerely apologizes and asks the forgiveness
of the aboriginal peoples of this country for failing them so
profoundly. We are sorry.
In moving towards healing, reconciliation and resolution of the sad
legacy of Indian residential schools, implementation of the Indian
residential schools settlement agreement began on September 19, 2007.
Years of work by survivors, communities, and aboriginal organizations
culminated in an agreement that gives us a new beginning and an
opportunity to move forward together in partnership.
A cornerstone of the settlement agreement is the Indian Residential
Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
This commission presents a unique opportunity to educate all Canadians
on the Indian residential schools system.
It will be a positive step in forging a new relationship between
aboriginal peoples and other Canadians, a relationship based on the
knowledge of our shared history, a respect for each other and a desire
to move forward together with a renewed understanding that strong
families, strong communities and vibrant cultures and traditions will
contribute to a stronger Canada for all of us. - God bless all of you
and God bless our land."
Prime Minister Stephen Harper June 11, 2008
SOURCE Anishinabek Nation
For further information:
Chief Isadore Day, Wiindawtegowinini
Serpent River First Nation
Po. Box 14, 195 Village Rd.,
Cutler, Ontario - P0B 1B0