Ontario Regional Chief Angus Toulouse responds to federal apology for Indian residential schools

    TORONTO, June 13 /CNW/ - On June 11, 2008 Prime Minister Stephen Harper
rose in the House of Commons to deliver an official apology on behalf of the
Government of Canada to the survivors of the residential school system.
    "The apology will not eliminate the experiences nor will it restore the
years lost to those that attended residential schools but it was necessary to
hear the Government of Canada admit that it was wrong and that they are
sorry," stated Ontario Regional Chief Angus Toulouse. The Prime Minister
apologized to survivors and their families for the aggressive assimilation
policy that was the basis for the residential school system. This policy was
focused on removing and isolating the child from their families and
communities in order to assimilate them into the dominant society. The policy
was based on the assumption that Indian culture was inferior.
    Prime Minister Harper acknowledged that the assimilation policy and
residential school experience did significant and lasting harm to First
Nations individuals, their families and communities over generations.
    The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
specifically affirms that all doctrines, policies and practices based on or
advocating superiority of peoples or individuals on the basis of racial,
religious, ethnic or cultural differences are racist, scientifically false,
legally invalid, morally condemnable and socially unjust.
    "The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples specifically
condemns policies like the residential school policy. First Nations peoples
are still suffering the effects of this experience, and our communities
continue to struggle with significant social and economic problems that leave
too many living in a state of dependency and hopelessness. The Government of
Canada needs to back up their words of healing and reconciliation with
concrete action and abandonment of existing policies that renders First
Nations traditions, laws and organizations as inferior," said Regional Chief
    Recently the Auditor General of Canada released the results of a study on
funding provided to First Nation child welfare agencies and found that First
Nation agencies receive 22 % less in comparison to their provincial
counterparts. "Having the ability to provide care for our children and support
for their families is vital to moving beyond our current realities to a
brighter future for our children," stated the Regional Chief. The Regional
Chief also emphasized the importance of improving educational opportunities
and success as key to leaving behind the sad legacy of the residential school
system. The Regional Chief indicates that First Nation communities are forced
to administer band operated schools with a 20 year old funding formula which
was designed to meet education needs in the 1980's. First Nation schools are
drastically under-funded as a direct result of a 2% cap on expenditure growth
which has been in place since 1996.
    "The apology was necessary and welcome but there is a need for the
Government of Canada and provincial governments to truly work with First
Nations and target those areas that need new and modern approaches such as in
First Nations governance, resource revenue sharing, education, housing, health
and so on. There are countless opportunities where Canada can put their words
into action," stated the Regional Chief.
    The apology is a key component of the Indian Residential Schools
Settlement Agreement, the largest class action settlement in Canadian history.
Implementation of the Settlement Agreement began on September 19, 2007. The
Settlement Agreement includes the following elements:

    -   Common Experience Payment to be paid to all eligible former students
        who resided at a recognized Indian Residential School;
    -   Independent Assessment Process for claims of sexual and serious
        physical abuse;
    -   Truth and Reconciliation Commission;
    -   Commemoration Activities;
    -   Measures to support healing such as the Indian Residential Schools
        Resolution Health Support Program and an endowment to the Aboriginal
        Healing Foundation.

For further information:

For further information: Pam Hunter, (416) 597-1266; or Policy Advisor,
(613) 203-3233

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Chiefs of Ontario

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