Canada's apology a critical step for Aboriginal people



    COAST SALISH TRADITIONAL TERRITORY/WEST VANCOUVER, June 11 /CNW/ - First
Nations Leaders today welcomed Prime Minister Stephen Harper's statement of
apology on behalf of Canada for the government's role in the Indian
Residential School System. Today the Leadership Council stands in support of
residential school survivors and their families. This is also a day to
remember those who died because of the residential school system.
    "The full story of the residential school system's impact on our people
has yet to be told," said Grand Chief Edward John of the First Nations Summit.
"The responses to the apology are both individual and collective. It is
extremely important that we respect the many survivors who, in their own
discretion and time, will consider the Prime Minister's apology and determine
how, in their own interest, each of them will deal with it. Collectively, we
celebrate and stand on the dignity of who we are and celebrate our survival.
Together, we will build for our individual and collective well-being. We ask
Canadians to join with us in this important historical moment to talk about
and understand the depths and consequences of the multi-layered and
intergenerational impacts on our people."
    "Despite the best efforts of the residential school system to destroy our
language and culture, thanks to the resilience of the survivors and our
ancestors, our identity and culture is still very much alive today and will
continue to thrive, as will our languages, well into the future," said
Regional Chief A-in-chut (Shawn Atleo) of the BC Assembly of First Nations, "I
am hopeful today's apology can help the survivors in their individual journeys
towards healing and as my Granny Elsie says, that tomorrow all Canadians will
work together to 'turn this heavy page' of our dark history".
    "For most Canadians it would be considered absolutely criminal to think
of children being forcibly removed from their families, experiencing sexual
and physical abuse, living in substandard conditions and being stripped of
their cultural identity," said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the
Union of BC Indian Chiefs. "By apologizing publicly for the residential school
atrocities, we hope that all Canadians will learn from the past and ensure
that no such disgusting genocidal programs are ever designed, legislated and
carried out in Canada ever again".
    Although it would be impossible for an apology from the Government of
Canada to rectify the decades of abuse and cultural genocide experienced at
residential schools, it is a critical step forward in the path to
reconciliation.

    The First Nations Leadership Council is comprised of the political
executives of the B.C. Assembly of First Nations, First Nations Summit, and
the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.
    The Council works together to politically represent the interests of
First Nations in British Columbia and develop strategies and actions to bring
about significant and substantive changes to government policy that will
benefit all First Nations in British Columbia.





For further information:

For further information: Grand Chief Edward John, Political Executive,
First Nations Summit, (778) 772-8218; Chief Judith Sayers, Political
Executive, First Nations Summit, (778) 838-6743; Grand Chief Stewart Phillip,
President, UBCIC: (250) 490-5314; Colin Braker, Communications Director, First
Nations Summit: Office: (604) 926-9903, Cell: (604) 328-4094; Ryneld Starr, BC
Assembly of First Nations: (604) 922-7733; Kelly Aldinger, NATIONAL Public
Relations: Office: (604) 638-7453, Cell: (604) 817-0231

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FIRST NATIONS LEADERSHIP COUNCIL

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