AFN National Chief says apology shows Canada coming to terms with its past

    TORONTO, June 12 /CNW/ - In his first public speech since the federal
government's formal apology to aboriginal students who suffered abuse and
torment in the residential schooling system, Assembly of First Nations
National Chief Phil Fontaine said today the apology shows Canada is coming to
terms with its past.
    In a heartfelt speech today to delegates attending the CAW's Collective
Bargaining and Political Action Convention in Toronto, Chief Fontaine thanked
CAW President Buzz Hargrove and all CAW members for their ongoing support of
social justice issues facing Canada's First Nations.
    Chief Fontaine called the government's apology a momentous occasion for
Canada. This apology will help the country come to terms with its past and
accept full responsibility for the pain inflicted on so many aboriginal
children, Fontaine said.
    Hargrove commended Chief Fontaine on his leadership role in forcing the
government to take the appropriate step in issuing a formal apology to
    "This apology didn't happen by chance," said Hargrove. "It happened
because of wonderful people like Chief Fontaine committed to the fight for
social justice."
    Under the federal government's residential school system, in place until
the mid 1970s when most residential schools closed, about 150,000 First
Nations, Inuit and Metis children were removed from their families and put
into about 130 residential schools across the country. The last residential
school was closed in 1996.
    Fontaine, also a victim of the residential school system, said that the
government's apology must also be seen as a time for this country turn the
page on a black period in Canadian history. Fontaine said he wants this to now
be part of his past as First Nations people tackle the challenges that lay
ahead - including working towards the eradication of First Nations poverty.
    The CAW has supported the Make Poverty History for First Nations campaign
and has worked with the AFN on joint projects including the refurbishment of
the Native Canadian Centre in Toronto and well repairs in the Little
Salmon/Carmacks First Nation in the Yukon.
    "You've been with us every step of the way in our struggle," said
Fontaine. "We deeply and most sincerely appreciate what you've done for us."
    CAW President Buzz Hargrove told Chief Fontaine that the union is
committed to continue working with the First Nations people on social justice
issues across the country.

For further information:

For further information: Angelo DiCaro, CAW Communications, (416)

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