Saturday, 28 September 2013

The Official Indian Residential School Apology: Words Spoken in Truth?


The Truth and Reconciliation Commission held a national gathering in British Columbia from the 16 to 22 September 2013. I thought it would be of interest to hear again the full speech and apology given by Prime Minister Stephen Harper on June 11, 2008. There is a feeling that the words of Harper were just that words. Some have started to say these words are without feeling or the actions that are required to minimally or substantially change the situation of First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples in Canada in their relations to other Canadians.

Did Harper truly mean these words or was it an attempt to create political capital. Does it even matter. Will the future be created by leaders or by those working, living and interacting together in Canadian society.

To Learn more (podcast)  

https://archive.org/details/32ResidentialSchoolApologyMixdown

https://archive.org/download/32ResidentialSchoolApologyMixdown/32%20-%20residential%20school%20apology%20mixdown%20.mp3


39th PARLIAMENT, 2nd SESSION

Wednesday, June 11, 2008 Hansard

The Speaker:
    I invite the hon. members to rise as our distinguished guests enter the House and take their seats.

    Applause

    Mr. Speaker, after the ministers' statements, the representative leaders may provide a response. So this can be done in accordance with the rules, practices and traditions of this House, I would ask unanimous consent for the following motion:


    That, notwithstanding any standing or special order or usual practices of the House, after statements by ministers today, the House resolve itself into committee of the whole to allow Phil Fontaine, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Patrick Brazeau, National Chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, Mary Simon, President of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Clem Chartier, President of the Métis National Council, and Beverley Jacobs, President of the Native Women's Association of Canada to make a statement in response to the ministerial statement of apology to former students of Indian residential schools; that the Speaker be permitted to preside over committee of the whole; after these statements, the Chairman shall leave the chair and the House shall adjourn to the next sitting day.

    Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the official opposition, I will say that we are honoured to consent.
[Translation]


    Mr. Speaker, naturally the Bloc Québécois gives its consent to this motion.
[English]

    Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the NDP, I will say that we most certainly give our consent.

    Is there unanimous consent to proceed in this way?

    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    (Motion agreed to)

    The Speaker: Pursuant to order made on Tuesday, June 10, 2008, the House will now proceed to statements by ministers.

     The right hon. Prime Minister.

Statements by Ministers 

Apology to Former Students of Indian Residential Schools


Mr. Speaker, before I begin officially, let me just take a moment to acknowledge the role of certain colleagues here in the House of Commons in today's events. Although the responsibility for the apology is ultimately mine alone, there are several of my colleagues who do deserve the credit.

    First of all, for their hard work and professionalism, I want to thank both the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and his predecessor, now the Minister of Industry. Both of these gentlemen have been strong and passionate advocates not just of today's action, but also of the historic Indian residential schools settlement that our government has signed.

    Second, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge my former colleague from Cariboo--Chilcotin, Philip Mayfield, who for a very long time was a determined voice in our caucus for meaningful action on this sad episode of our history.

    Last, but certainly not least, I do want to thank my colleague, the leader of the New Democratic Party. For the past year and a half, he has spoken to me with regularity and great conviction on the need for this apology. His advice, given across party lines and in confidence, has been persuasive and has been greatly appreciated.

[Translation]

    I stand before you today to offer an apology to former students of Indian residential schools. The treatment of children in these schools is a sad chapter in our history.

    For more than a century, Indian residential schools separated over 150,000 aboriginal children from their families and communities.
[English]

    In the 1870s, the federal government, partly in order to meet its obligations to educate aboriginal children, began to play a role in the development and administration of these schools.

    Two primary objectives of the residential school system were to remove and isolate children from the influence of their homes, families, traditions and cultures, and to assimilate them into the dominant culture.

     These objectives were based on the assumption that aboriginal cultures and spiritual beliefs were inferior and unequal.

     Indeed, some sought, as 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. 
[Translation applause

    Today, we recognize that this policy of assimilation was wrong, has caused great harm, and has no place in our country. 
One hundred and thirty-two federally-supported schools were located in every province and territory, except Newfoundland, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.
[English]

    Most schools were operated as joint ventures with Anglican, Catholic, Presbyterian and United churches.

     The Government of Canada built an educational system in which very young children were often forcibly removed from their homes and 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 Métis languages and cultural practices were prohibited in these schools.

     Tragically, some of these children died while attending residential schools, and others never returned home.
[Translation]

    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.
[English]

     It has taken extraordinary courage for the thousands of survivors who have come forward to speak publicly about the abuse they suffered. It is a testament to their resilience as individuals and to the strengths of their cultures.

    Regrettably, many former students are not with us today and died never having received a full apology from the Government of Canada.

[Translation]

    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.
[English]

    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.
[Translation]

    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.
[English]

    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.
[Translation]

    We are sorry.
[English]

    [Nimitataynan. Niminchinowesamin. Mamiattugut.]

    In moving toward healing, reconciliation and resolution of the sad legacy of Indian residential schools, the 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 represents 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 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. God bless our land.

    Mr. Speaker, today, Canada comes face to face with some of the darkest chapters of its history.

    Forced assimilation of aboriginal peoples was carried out through the residential schools system, a system, sadly, older than Confederation itself: schools aimed at “killing the Indian in the child” and eradicating aboriginal identity; schools built on the removal of children from their families and communities; schools designed to rip out of children their aboriginal identity, culture, beliefs and language.
[Translation]

    It was a dehumanizing system that resulted in the worst kinds of abuse.
[English]

    Government policy destroyed the fabric of family in first nations, Métis and Inuit communities. Parents and children were made to feel worthless. Parents and grandparents were given no choice. Their children were stolen from them.
[Translation]

    And only today are we starting to measure the devastating costs of these terrible policies.
[English]

    Today we live in a reality created by the residential schools system, a present that is haunted by this tragic and painful heritage from those first nations, Métis and Inuit children, from their families and their communities, a dark and painful heritage that all Canadians must accept as a part of our history.

    For too long, Canadian governments chose denial over truth, and when confronted with the weight of truth, chose silence. For too long, Canadian governments refused to acknowledge their direct role in creating the residential schools system and perpetrating their dark and insidious goal of wiping out aboriginal identity and culture. For too long, Canadian governments chose to ignore the consequences of this tragedy instead of trying to understand them so that the suffering of first nations, Métis and Inuit communities continues to this day.

    Let me quote the damning verdict of the 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples:


    With very few exceptions, neither senior departmental officials nor churchmen nor members of Parliament raised their voices against the assumptions that underlay the [residential schools] system or its abusive character. And, of course, the memory did not and has not faded. It has persisted, festered and become a sorrowful monument--

[Translation]

     Today, we lay the first stone in building a new monument, a monument dedicated to truth, reconciliation and a better future.
[English]

    Today, we, representatives of the Canadian people, apologize to those who survived residential schools and to those who died as a result of the laws enacted by previous governments and parliaments. By speaking directly to survivors and victims today on the floor of the House of Commons, we apologize to those who died waiting for these words to be spoken and these wrongs acknowledged.

    Successive Canadian governments and various churches were complicit in the mental, physical and sexual abuse of thousands of aboriginal children through the residential schools system. As the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, a party that was in government for more than 70 years in the 20th century, I acknowledge our role and our shared responsibility in this tragedy. I am deeply sorry. I apologize.
[Translation]

     I am sorry that Canada attempted to eradicate your identity and culture by taking you away from your families when you were children and by building a system to punish you for who you were.

    To first nations, Inuit and Métis, mothers and fathers, I am so very sorry we took away your children. I am sorry we did not value you as parents. I am sorry we did not trust and respect you.
[English]

    Today's apology is about a past that should have been completely different. But it must be also about the future. It must be about collective reconciliation and fundamental changes.

    It must be about moving forward together, aboriginal and non-aboriginal, into a future based on respect. It is about trying to find in each of us some of the immense courage that we see in the eyes of those who have survived.

    It is about being inspired by the determination of survivors like National Chief Phil Fontaine and Willie Blackwater who had the courage to speak out and pursue justice. It is about building on the work of former first nations member of Parliament Gary Merasty, whose motion calling on the government to apologize to survivors of residential schools was unanimously adopted by members of Parliament on May 1, 2007.

[Translation]

    If we are to succeed, we need to be firmly committed to the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, chaired by Justice Harry LaForme, which is responsible for investigating all aspects of the residential school system in Canada.

    This means that we will have to listen to testimony from victims of physical, emotional and sexual abuse. This means that we will have to understand why and how Canada let residential schools cause deaths and spread illness, tuberculosis and pneumonia. This also means that we will have to get to the bottom of what really happened to the many children who disappeared into unmarked graves.

    This means giving a voice to those who were silenced by Canada. This means giving a name to those whose identities were erased. This means showing our respect to those we humiliated. This means understanding the pain of the parents and families who were abandoned and, as a result of our actions, destroyed forever.

    We must listen carefully to the victims who testify before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and we must be prepared to hear the commission recount a very shameful collective past. We must together, as a nation, face the truth to ensure that never again do we have to apologize to another generation, and that never again is such a tragedy allowed to happen.
[English]

    I say this as I think of the survivors I met last night. One woman remembers clearly her early days growing up in an isolated community with her family. At age seven, her father took her by canoe to a residential school. She has great memories of life with her parents and siblings up to that day. Yet, she has no memory of the two years she spent at the residential school. She survived by erasing all memory of the harsh treatment she endured.

    Another survivor, Marion Ironquill-Meadmore, talked about the 10 years she spent in a church-run institution. The first lesson she was taught was that her parents were not worthy. After 10 years, she left the school feeling lost in both the aboriginal and non-aboriginal worlds, ill-equipped to return to the traditional lifestyle of her community, and yet never feeling at home elsewhere.

    Reconciliation will require a commitment from Canadian society for action. This means ensuring that all aboriginal Canadians, first nations, Inuit and Métis alike, share in the bounty and opportunity of this country. This means ensuring that we hear the voices of first nations, Métis and Inuit people in their own languages, and that these aboriginal voices and languages continue to enrich the cultural heritage of the world.

    We cannot be intimidated by the scale of the challenge or discouraged by the failures of the past. We owe it to all our children to pass along an even better country than we inherited from our parents and we will not do so as long as aboriginal peoples continue to be left behind.

    Four years after the conclusion of the five year Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Canada will mark the 150th anniversary of Confederation. On that anniversary, it is my sincere hope that aboriginal and non-aboriginal peoples in this country will fulfill the dream voiced in the very building 60 years ago by decorated aboriginal veteran Thomas Prince, a dream of first nations, Inuit and Métis people and non-aboriginal Canadians forging a new and lasting relationship. He said in his own words, “so that they can trust each other and...can walk side by side and face this world having faith and confidence in one another”.

    Until that day, we humbly offer our apology as the first step on the path to reconciliation and healing.

    Merci. Thank you. Meegwetch. Ekosi. Nakurmiik.

[Translation]


    Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to be here to witness—at last—the Canadian government's apology to the first nations, Métis and Inuit people who were victims of federally funded residential schools.

    Nearly 150,000 people have waited their whole lives for this day of truth and reconciliation; 90,000 of them are still with us. These 90,000 are true survivors. Over 100 years ago, the Bryce report revealed that the mortality rate in residential schools was close to 25%. In the Old Sun's residential school in Alberta, the death rate was as high as 47%. That is why I consider these former students to be survivors.

    These 150,000 people were abducted from their mothers and fathers. They were separated from their sisters and brothers. They were forcibly uprooted from their communities and their traditional cultures.

    For those who cannot imagine the impact that residential schools had on aboriginal peoples, picture a small village, a small community. Now picture all of its children, gone. No more children between 7 and 16 playing in the lanes or the woods, filling the hearts of their elders with their laughter and joy. Imagine the ever-present fear of watching their children disappear when they reached school age.

    Rumours abounded about what happened to the children. All these years later, it is still horrifying to think of these things. Children were torn from their parents' arms to be assimilated. They were taken away and raised by people who had but one goal: to “kill the Indian in the child”. Forced to unlearn their languages, these children could no longer communicate with their own parents. All of these things really happened, and they are a part of our collective history.

    Between 1934 and 1962, six residential schools were established in Quebec: two in Cree territory, one in Algonquin territory, one in Attikamek territory and two in Innu territory. Just like residential schools everywhere, these ones left wounds caused by abuse, ill treatment and neglect.

    Roméo Saganash, himself a survivor of residential schools, told me the story of his brother, who died within a year of entering the school. His family never found out why he died, and it took 40 years—40 long years—for his mother to find the place where he had been buried. It is impossible to erase these indelible scars, impossible to heal the souls shattered by these memories.

    Yet this apology is necessary. It is necessary but not sufficient. As Roméo Saganash says, “An apology, once made, is only as good as the actions that come after it.” For those who lost their childhood in the residential schools, the best apology consists of real action that will allow their children and grandchildren to hope in the future. This means that the government must take real action now.

    For example, the government is not spending enough to help aboriginal children reach their full potential. For example, when problems occur that affect children, the government recommends that the children be taken out of their community for their own protection. In a way, the government is repeating the mistakes of the past.

    For more than a year, we and the first nations of Quebec have been calling for more money for first nations so that children can remain in their communities. Does the government not think that enough aboriginal children were removed from their communities in the past?

    Here is another example. The Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador has been waiting for over a year and a half for a response from the government so that it can implement its “10,000 possibilities” project.


    This 10-year plan is aimed at building 10,000 housing units, helping 10,000 young people graduate from high school and creating 10,000 jobs.

    If the Prime Minister's apology is sincere, let him take real action. We will support him.

    Finally, there is this disgrace: the government's refusal to endorse the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I am very proud that the Bloc Québécois has given clear support to this draft declaration. By agreeing to endorse the declaration, the Prime Minister can send a clear message to aboriginal peoples that he has learned from past mistakes and is making a solemn promise to the victims that their children and grandchildren will have respect and dignity.

    I am speaking to you, the aboriginal representatives present on the floor of the House and watching from the gallery. All the members of the Bloc Québécois join me in reaching out to you so that, together, we can build a better future for our children and grandchildren.

    That requires a relationship of mutual respect that can only be forged between nations.

    On behalf of the Bloc Québécois, I extend a sincere apology for the past, and I invite us to build the future together, as nations.

[English]


Hon. Jack Layton (Toronto—Danforth, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, today, I rise in this House to add the voice of the New Democratic Party to the profound apology being offered humbly to first nations, Métis and Inuit on behalf of the Canadian people.

    I wish to acknowledge and honour the elders who are with us here today and are participating in this ceremony, the length and breadth of this land at this very moment.
[Translation]

    I wish to pay tribute to the first nations, Métis and Inuit leaders who are here with us and to all of those who are guiding their communities through this difficult, emotional, momentous and hope-filled day.
[English]

    I wish to recognize the children, here in this chamber today and watching at home in gatherings across the land, who also bear witness to the legacy of the residential schools.

    Most importantly, I want to say to the survivors of the residential schools, some of whom have joined us here today, we are sorry for what has taken place.
[Translation]

    Today we mark a very significant moment for Canada. It is the moment when we, as a Parliament, as a country, take responsibility for one of the most shameful periods in our history. It is the moment for us to finally apologize. It is the moment when we will start to build a shared future, a future based on equality and built on mutual respect and truth.
[English]

    It was this Parliament that enacted, 151 years ago, the racist legislation that established the residential schools. This Parliament chose to treat first nations, Métis and Inuit people as not equally human. It set out to kill the Indian in the child. That choice was horribly wrong. It led to incredible suffering. It denied first nations, Métis and Inuit the basic freedom to choose how to live their lives. For those wrongs that we have committed, we are truly sorry.

    Our choice denied their children the love and nurturing of their own families and communities.
[Translation]

    It denied children the pride and self-esteem that come from learning one's heritage, language, culture and traditions. In addition to these wounds, they experienced our neglect, inadequate health care, mistreatment and sexual abuse, all of which harmed so many children and even killed some.

    Because of Canada's policies, those who survived learned to be ashamed of who they are.

    For these terrible actions, we are sorry.

    The legacy of residential schools casts a shadow over our country. It tore apart families and communities for generations, and this continues to be felt, and felt very personally.

[English]

    Nearly every first nations person of my age that I have met is a survivor. Many are also the children of survivors.
[Translation]

    One of those children told me about her mother, a Cree from northern Quebec, who had 12 of her 14 children taken from her. Her brother died in a residential school, but their mother was never told why or how. She was never told where her son was buried. She did not have the right to pay tribute to his life or his death. She could not mourn or say her final goodbyes to her child, as every mother should.
[English]

    Many years later, her daughter was working in northern Ontario and she happened to mention the story of her brother to a local. He said, “I know where your brother is buried”. They went to the graveyard and he pointed to a spot beside a headstone, and said, “Your brother is buried here, unmarked”.

    The pain inflicted by the residential schools is deeply felt by these children, who were forced to attend, and by the parents who had their children stolen from them. It is still felt in first nations, Métis and Inuit communities across the country.
[Translation]

    The destruction of family and community ties, the psychological wounds, the loss of language and culture, and substandard education all led to widespread poverty, which remains rampant in first nations, Métis and Inuit communities today.
[English]

    The horrors of the residential schools continue to harm even those who never experienced them personally.

    There can be no equivocation. The laws consciously enacted in this House put the residential schools into place and kept them going for many years.

    It is in this House that we must start the process of reconciliation. That is why we are here together today and why we are here together to say we are sorry. This is a crucial first step.

    However, reconciliation must be built through positive steps that show respect and restore trust. This apology must not be an end; it must be a beginning.
[Translation]

    What is needed is a commitment to never again allow such a travesty of justice and transgression against equality to occur.

    It begins with officially recognizing the rights and cultures of first nations, Métis and Inuit peoples by signing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
[English]

    But reconciliation also means that, as a Parliament and as a country, we must take action to address the terrible inequality faced by first nations, Métis and Inuit communities. We can start by restoring the nation-to-nation relationship between the Government of Canada and first nations, Métis and the Inuit.

    Even as we speak here today, thousands of aboriginal children are without proper schools or clean water, adequate food, their own bed, good health care, safety, comfort, land and rights.

    We can no longer throw up our hands and say, “There's nothing we can do”. Taking responsibility and working toward reconciliation means saying, “We must act together to resolve this”.

     Let us reverse the horrific and shameful statistics afflicting aboriginal populations, now: the high rates of poverty, suicide, the poor or having no education, overcrowding, crumbling housing, and unsafe drinking water. Let us make sure that all survivors of the residential schools receive the recognition and compensation that is due to them.

[Translation]

    We must make a serious, collective commitment. All of us together—first nations, Métis and Inuit, Canadians who have been here for generations and new Canadians as well—must build a future based on fairness, equality and respect.

    Meegwetch. Ekosi. Nakurmiik.

Pursuant to order made earlier today, the House will now resolve itself into committee of the whole. I will now leave the chair.
[English]
    (House in committee of the whole to recognize representatives of the Assembly of First Nations, Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Métis National Council and Native Women's Association of Canada, Mr. Peter Milliken in the chair)

    [And the representatives being present in the chamber:] 

I call upon Phil Fontaine, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations.

Chief Phil Fontaine (National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations):  
    Prime Minister, Chief Justice, members of the House, elders, survivors, Canadians: for our parents, our grandparents, great grandparents, indeed for all of the generations which have preceded us, this day testifies to nothing less than the achievement of the impossible.

    This morning our elders held a condolence ceremony for those who never heard an apology, never received compensation, yet courageously fought assimilation so that we could witness this day.

    Together we remember and honour them for it was they who suffered the most as they witnessed generation after generation of their children taken from their families' love and guidance. 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.

    Our peoples, our history, and our present being are the essence of Canada. The attempts to erase our identities hurt us deeply, but it also hurt all Canadians and impoverished the character of this nation.

    We must not falter in our duty now. Emboldened by this spectacle of history, it is possible to end our racial nightmare together. The memories of residential schools sometimes cut like merciless knives at our souls. This day will help us to put that pain behind us.

    But it signifies something even more important: a respectful and, therefore, liberating relationship between us and the rest of Canada.

    Together we can achieve the greatness our country deserves. The apology today is founded upon, more than anything else, the recognition that we all own our own lives and destinies, the only true foundation for a society where peoples can flourish.


    We must now capture a new spirit and vision to meet the challenges of the future.

     As a great statesman once said, we are all part of one “garment of destiny”. The differences between us are not blood or colour and “the ties that bind us are deeper than those that separate us”. The “common road of hope” will bring us to reconciliation more than any words, laws or legal claims ever could.

     We still have to struggle, but now we are in this together.

    I reach out to all Canadians today in this spirit of reconciliation.

    Meegwetch.
 [Translation]


I now call on Patrick Brazeau, the National Chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples.
[English]


    Members of the House, it is indeed an honour and a pleasure to be here witnessing this historic day.

    Not only is it a historic day, but it is a positive step forward in the history of this great country of ours.

    I would like to thank the Prime Minister for his leadership, and for something that none of his predecessors has done, and that is to do the humane, moral and right thing.

     Thank you.

    More importantly, this day is about the survivors and those of you in the gallery. I am proud to be here on this floor and representing some of you.

     I want you to know that even though you have attended residential schools, in my heart and in my soul you are true role models. Because of your resiliency, your courage and your strength, you have made me the strong aboriginal Algonquin Canadian that I am today, as you have others across this great land of ours.

    Surely in a country that the entire world knows because of its great opportunities and hope, surely that belongs to those from whom it was taken so long ago. Today for me personally, not only is it a great day to be an aboriginal person or an Algonquin, but I am proud to be an aboriginal Canadian.

    Meegwetch.

Order, please. I now recognize Mary Simon, the President of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.


    [Ms. Simon spoke in Inuktitut]

    [English]

    Mr. Prime Minister, I spoke first in my Inuit language because I wanted to illustrate to you that our language and culture are still strong.

    I have to face you to say this, Mr. Prime Minister, because it comes from the bottom of my heart. It took great courage for you to express your sorrow and apology to our people, the Inuit, to first nations, and to Métis, and we thank you very much for it.

    [Ms. Simon spoke in Inuktitut]

    [English]

    I am one of those people who have dreamed for this day. There have been times in this long journey when I despaired that this would ever happen.

    However, after listening to the Prime Minister and the leaders of the political parties, I am filled with hope and compassion for my fellow aboriginal Canadians as I stand among them here with you and your fellow ministers today, Mr. Prime Minister.

    I am also filled with optimism that this action by the Government of Canada and the generosity in the words chosen to convey this apology will help all of us mark the end of this dark period in our collective history as a nation.

    Let us not be lulled into an impression that when the sun rises tomorrow morning, the pain and scars will miraculously be gone. They will not.

    But a new day has dawned, a new day heralded by a commitment to reconciliation and building a new relationship with Inuit, Métis and first nations.

    Let us now join forces with the common goal of working together to ensure that this apology opens the door to a new chapter in our lives as aboriginal peoples and in our place in Canada.

    There is much hard work to be done. We need the help and support of all thoughtful Canadians and our governments to rebuild strong and healthy families and communities.

     This can be achieved only when dignity, confidence and respect for traditional values and human rights once again become part of our daily lives and are mirrored in our relationships with governments and other Canadians.

    I stand here today ready to work with you, as Inuit have always done, to craft new solutions and new arrangements based on mutual respect and mutual responsibility.

    Thank you. May wisdom and compassion guide our efforts.

[Translation]


Order, please. I now call on Clem Chartier, President of the Métis National Council.
[English]


    Prime Minister, members of Parliament, friends, and Canadian citizens, it is a great day.

     On behalf of the Métis Nation, I want to express a deep sense of thanks and gratitude to the Prime Minister today for offering this most sincere apology to those people who have experienced the Indian residential schools system.

    It has been a long time coming, but it has been well received. I hope and I pray that it will resonate in the communities of those people who have been affected.

    The Prime Minister and the Minister of Indian Affairs know that although I am very sincere and happy, perhaps, that this is happening, I also feel deeply conflicted, because there is still misunderstanding about the situation of the Métis Nation, our history and our contemporary situation.

    We have had serious discussions with the Minister of Indian Affairs. We have agreed, and I believe the Prime Minister is supportive, that we will, based on this apology today, address those issues that are outstanding to our people, the Métis. I believe those statements made today about the dark days of the assimilation policies and I believe those actions that took place in this House will be addressed and hopefully corrected in the future.

     I really do feel conflicted, because I am one of the survivors of a Métis residential school, which was no different from Indian residential schools except for the question of who paid. As for who paid, it was those young people who went there, people like Don, people like me. We paid.

     I hope and I do believe sincerely in the words of the minister that we will address this. I said that the Métis Nation would be here to share this day with those people who have waited for so long. We want to celebrate, and we do celebrate, with them, with you, with all Canadians, because this is a day for all Canadians. It is a day for us to move forward.

     I know deep in my heart that the party leaders and the Prime Minister who spoke today spoke with sincerity, not with the theatrics of the Commons. That has been set aside. I can see that. I can feel that. I know that it is deep and it is real.

    Finally, Prime Minister, the Métis Nation of western Canada, which has been excluded from many things by the workings of this House and its policies, wants in.

    Thank you.

Order, please. I now call on Beverley Jacobs, the President of the Native Women's Association of Canada.


    What I said in my Mohawk language is, “Greetings of peace to you”. My nation is Mohawk of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, Bear Clan, and my real name is Gowehgyuseh, which means “She is visiting”.

    I am here to represent the Native Women's Association of Canada and the women that we represent have a statement. It is about the respect of aboriginal women in this country.

    Prior to the residential schools system, prior to colonization, the women in our communities were very well respected and honoured for the role that they have in our communities as being the life givers, being the caretakers of the spirit that we bring to mother earth. We have been given those responsibilities to look after our children and to bring that spirit into this physical world.

    Residential schools caused so much harm to that respect and to that honour. There were ceremonies for young men and for young women that were taken away for generations in residential schools. Now we have our language still, we have our ceremonies, we have our elders, and we have to revitalize those ceremonies and the respect for our people not only within Canadian society but even within our own peoples.

    I want to say that I come here speaking from my heart, because two generations ago, my grandmother, being a Mohawk woman, was beaten, sexually beaten and physically beaten, for being a Mohawk woman. She did not pass that on. She did not pass it on to my mother and her siblings, and so that matriarchal system that we have was directly affected. Luckily, I was raised in a community where it has been revitalized by all of our mothers.

     I want to say that as mothers, we teach our boys and our girls, our men and our women equally. That is what I am here to say, that although it may be the Native Women's Association, we also represent men and women because that is our responsibility. It is not just about women's issues, it is about making sure that we have strong nations again. That is what I am here to say.

    We have given thanks to you for your apology. I have to also give you credit for standing up. I did not see any other governments before today come forward and apologize, so I do thank you for that. But in return, the Native Women's Association wants respect.


    I have just one last thing to say. To all of the leaders of the Liberals, the Bloc and NDP, thank you, as well, for your words because now it is about our responsibilities today, the decisions that we make today and how they will affect seven generations from now.

    My ancestors did the same seven generations ago and they tried hard to fight against you because they knew what was happening. They knew what was coming, but we have had so much impact from colonization and that is what we are dealing with today.

    Women have taken the brunt of it all.

    Thank you for the opportunity to be here at this moment in time to talk about those realities that we are dealing with today.

    What is it that this government is going to do in the future to help our people? Because we are dealing with major human rights violations that have occurred to many generations: my language, my culture and my spirituality. I know that I want to transfer those to my children and my grandchildren, and their children, and so on.

    What is going to be provided? That is my question. I know that is the question from all of us. That is what we would like to continue to work on, in partnership.

    Nia:wen. Thank you.

    Pursuant to the order made earlier today the committee will now rise and I do leave the chair.

    I now invite hon. members to rise while our distinguished guests leave the chamber.
[Translation]

    It being 4:35 p.m., pursuant to order made on Tuesday, June 10, 2008, the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

    (The House adjourned at 4:35 p.m.)

26 comments:

  1. I have decided to tackle the question: does Harper believe in action (after giving a formal apology)? The short answer, in my opinion, is: NO.
    I took a look at the Conservative Party of Canada’s website in order to find where they stand on the issues relating to Aboriginal Canadians. I searched the 60 page document outlining the top priorities of the party. I found two paragraphs relating to helping Aboriginal communities. The first talked about land development, clean energy technologies, environmental safety upgrades, and better adult education. The second was about financial transparency, requiring the publication of all salaries and expenses of chiefs and councilors. To me, this document does not show that Harper is willing to fight for the rights of Aboriginal communities. He included a few paragraphs to show that it is on his radar, but his focus and his priorities are elsewhere.
    Then I thought, maybe this document doesn’t include everything, so I took a look at the “Issue by Issue” section on the website. Not one of the issues includes their stance on improving relationships with Aboriginal communities or helping them overcome the problems that began as a result of the Indian Residential School system. Clearly, this is not a priority for Stephen Harper and his government.
    Many of the responses to the apologies include an acknowledgement of the courage it took to apologize about the IRS system, but they also indicate that there is much work to be done. This is the beginning of a new relationship; it is a start to the long road ahead. Stephen Harper may have had the courage to formally apologize on behalf of the Government of Canada for its part in the IRS system, but he has not had the courage to move forward on any of the issues that came as a result of that system. We all know that an apology, even when sincere, means nothing if it is not backed up with repentant actions.

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  2. I do believe that Stephen Harper’s apology about the residential schools was sincere. There had not been a formal apology for what happened yet, and Stephen Harper thought it was time to take charge and be responsible for apologizing. Now, was this apology appropriate and needed? I do believe it was. I think that the apology showed that people do care about what happened all of those years. However, apologizing is only the start of it all. Having a verbal apology is nice, however having actions that back up the apology are also needed.

    I do not agree with what is going on now regarding that whole situation. They are not healing what had happened, they are only putting a band aid on it. Giving money to the Aboriginal people who lost family members or who had terrible things happen to them does not solve anything. They cannot buy a normal life back. But, if the government would use that money towards solving their problems, such as giving them schools and helping them bring back their culture, then I would say that that would be money well spent.

    To summarize, I do believe that Stephen Harper initially intended his apology to be sincere, but now he is not acting on it like it was sincere. Lee White, who wrote the article “Harper’s pipeline push thwarting reconciliation” says something similar to what I believe. He says that “Harper’s apology to residential school survivors does not seem as sincere now as when he first made it.” (Lee White, 2013) White goes on to say that Harper is continuing to assimilate Aboriginals because he is not truly listening to what they have to say.

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  3. Steven Harpers apology for the residential school act is extremely formal and he speaks in third person for the majority of the apology. Although formal in nature, I do feel he is being sincere. Due to the high level of official language, I understand some may interpret his speech as completely business in nature, perhaps unemotional, and may even interpret it as insincere. I feel this comes from the heavy subject matter of what he is apologizing for. Steven Harper is apologizing for a dark chapter in Canada’s history, one in which many children were killed and separated from family. He is apologizing by speaking for an entire nation of people and not just himself, so I understand the use of formal vocabulary and referencing how the “government” as an entirety is sorry. Due to the sensitive subject matter in which Harper is speaking, I think that it was important to stay professional and issue the apology in third person as he was not just apologizing from himself, but rather Canada as an entire Nation.
    Stephane Dion takes a different approach in his apology. He apologizes in first person and even reading his choice of words you can sense more emotion to his speech then in Harpers. He apologizes full heartedly from himself and the nation. His use of words throughout his speech such as “dehumanizing” and referring to the residential school as one of the “darkest chapters in history” defiantly spark more emotion then Harpers speech as well. I think that many would feel this speech was more acceptable and even more sincere then Harpers as it captures the terrible acts of what happened in residential schools more clearly then the former apology. Due to Dion’s use of language and emotion through this apology I can understand why some would better perceive and accept his apology over Harpers.
    My personal opinion on the subject is that some people are better speakers then others. I feel that the corresponding actions of both officials should better legislate who is sincere or not. Mr. Gilles Duceppe states to Harper to “take real action” to prove his sincerity. I think this is completely true as in many cases actions speak louder than words.

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  4. An apology from the federal government for the atrocities committed in Indian Residential Schools was much needed, not just for the sake of a healing community torn apart and subjected to cultural genocide, but for the healing of an entire nation. Acknowledging the atrocities that were committed in this country is a big first step in moving towards the future. That being said, I take great issue with the fact that the government thinks that it can apologize and throw money at the problem, as if that would somehow erase the stain on this country’s education system. The billion dollar reparation money, in my opinion, was equivalent to throwing money at the problem until it went away quietly. I’m not sure the federal government realizes the extent of the damage they caused. An article, entitled Survivors of Indian Residential Schools Share Stories to Assist in Healing, in the Canadian Press estimates that “About 150,000 students suffered abuse, cultural losses and even death at the institutions, which operated from the 1870s through the 1970s” (Bisset, 2007). Yes, an apology was greatly needed and financial compensation is definitely a good start, but it’s hard to rationalize the actual effect of both the apology and the compensation. The article also states that “The average payment is estimated at $28,000”, making it a very small sum of money when many survivors are crippled with debt and have effectively lost their culture (Bisset, 2007). It’s hard to put this all together and come to the conclusion that it is enough. Initiatives that reinforce aboriginal culture, for instance, would have had a much larger impact than a small sum of money. Literacy foundations and support groups that honour the native languages of these people would have also gone a long way in the restoration of the culture that this country sought to destroy. The ironic part of it all, is that the Canadian Museum of Human Rights stands tall and proud in our growing metropolis, and in the shadow of it lies the many impoverished people living in the North End, who had their rights stripped from them not too long ago.


    Bissett, K. (2007, Aug 28). Survivors of indian residential schools share stories to assist healing. Canadian Press NewsWire. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/359825122?accountid=14569

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  5. This is the first time that I heard Stephen Harper’s apology to the remaining survivors of the Residential Schools. I’m going to start by saying that I found it awkward that Harper, before starting the apology, had to state that he better thank the others involved in the apology although he states the apology is personally his alone? Why would he even say that? I thought the apology did not seem sincere; others I have talked to think that Harper left out a lot of important aspects and consequences of the residential schools. Furthermore, I read an article on CBC News ‘Hungry aboriginal people used in bureaucrats' experiments Food historian published details of nutritional experiments that began in the 1940s’stating that, “Recently published research by food historian Ian Mosby has revealed details about one of the least-known but perhaps most disturbing aspects of government policy toward aboriginal people immediately after the Second World War.” This article claims that the government did experiments on malnourished Aboriginal children in residential schools, regarding the effectiveness of a vitamin supplement. I was shocked.
    Harper states that we must create a relationship built on our shared history and move forward together. What has the government done for Aboriginal peoples since the apology? Where is the ‘meaningful action’? Saying that we need to build strong relationship and move in a positive direction forward is a good start but, doing nothing further does not change anything. Stephen Harper acknowledges the ongoing effects of the residential schools, but did not make any meaningful commitment to foster positive change. It’s going to take more than a so called apology to foster the kind of relationship Harper speaks of in his speech. Although, I’m not saying Harpers apology had no meaning to anyone. I’m sure that this apology was the first time some people have heard such words in regards to their experience in the residential schools and some may even just needed to hear someone finally take responsibility and say ‘sorry’. But like I said before the idea behind the apology is a great first step, without meaningful action to back it up, it just seems like an empty statement.

    ‘Hungry aboriginal people used in bureaucrats' experiments
    Food historian published details of nutritional experiments that began in the 1940s’
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/hungry-aboriginal-people-used-in-bureaucrats-experiments-1.1317051

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  6. This one had to be split in two.


    To begin, I must clarify that my feelings on the official residential schools apology offered in 2008 are merely the opinions of a privileged individual within the settler colonial regime commonly called Canada. I cannot possibly understand the impact that even the most rudimentary of acknowledgments would have had after decades of state evasion of the issue. Numerous submissions to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission have indicated that the apology, at least temporarily, succeeded in opening a public dialogue and reducing the feelings of isolation that many survivors of abuse had endured throughout their lives. That said, I feel that a basic criterion of ‘honest’ apologies in our society, one which we endeavour to hold the youngest of children to, is a sincere reflection on the offending behaviour and resolve to change that behaviour going forward. On this count the 2008 apology must be understood as one of the most egregiously disingenuous mea culpas offered in Canadian history.
    Scarcely a year had passed before Stephen Harper proudly contradicted the apology before an international gathering in Pittsburgh, declaring that Canada had “no history of colonialism” (http://tinyurl.com/yeus75b). While the federal government has often sought to situate colonialism in some tragic, yet safely distant past (in an effort to downplay the continued existence of the overtly colonial ‘Indian Act’), Harper’s assertion effectively denied the systemic operation of the residential school system as detailed in the apology.
    The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, following in the footsteps of similar commissions in Latin America and South Africa has done an incredible job of bringing survivor’s stories to the attention of the public. Established one week prior to the Conservative’s apology, the TRC has faced numerous obstacles in fully securing the legally agreed upon cooperation of the federal government in carrying out its mandate. Set to conclude later this year, the TRC has yet to receive several million critical documents from the government, despite a court order unequivocally restating the government’s legal obligation to do so (http://tinyurl.com/nw5mpnm). Similar tactics were employed by the outgoing white-supremacist regime in South Africa as well as the Latin American state-terror regimes of Argentina and Chile to the great detriment of the TRC processes.
    This same government, so willing to point out its words of contrition within its own borders was until recently one of four holdouts in signing the United Nations Declarations on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; that’s four out of 193 countries. Coincidentally these were also the four settler-colonial states with the largest indigenous populations. Apologies make for great headlines but, apparently, they don’t really require you to implement any of the implicit commitments made within them on the international stage where someone might notice your hypocrisy (http://tinyurl.com/krtr8lk)

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  7. Closer to home a similar case could be made for the steadfast refusal of this same sorry, er…. I mean apologetic, government to support an inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women. Women living in colonial contexts have always been vulnerable to abuse and violence. The underlying social relations within Canadian society that made the residential school system possible today inform the federal government’s apathy in regards to this epidemic. Over the past four decades a minimum of 582 Aboriginal women have been murdered or are presumed to have been. Recently the premiers of every Canadian province joined forces to call for an inquiry and still the federal government refuses (http://tinyurl.com/kw5h7ta) How do you think they would proceed if 13,000 Canadian women of European descent had gone missing or been killed? (the per capita equivalent) Would they feel the same way if these were their mothers, partners, sisters, and children? Would they fail to notice the wildly disproportionate impact it had on their communities and not others?
    These are but a few of the myriad examples that could be offered in regards to the governments repeated failures to respect the contrition indicated in the apology. One is left wondering if the ‘healing’ spoken of in the apology is not, as Keavy Martin says, synonymous with absolving the wrong doers and forcing a closure on survivors (http://tinyurl.com/n3oxvjk). One doesn’t need to travel far to hear fellow Canadians utter the phrase “get over it” in regards to residential school survivors. In fact, I heard it this very morning in another class after a respected First Nations leader finished reliving his own horrific experiences of physical and sexual abuse in a residential school. Once he had left class a student began, “I would, out of respect, never say this around ‘someone like that’, but…” cue hand-wringing “...everyone needs to get over it and move on.”
    This is the downside of disingenuous apologies. For all of us non-Aboriginal Canadians they provide a wonderful sense of closure. “Thank god we’ve finally dealt with all those painful issues we had never actually confronted about things that happened to other people and not us while we happily benefited from them.” The problem is, while we’re all exhausting ourselves rolling our eyes and writing racist letters to the editor, people that actually suffered generations of systematic abuse are once more being silenced. The woefully short and circumscribed TRC process is not yet over, but our very sorry government is already “over it”.

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  8. The apology that Stephen Harper made on behalf of the government may be sincere but did nothing to change or amend the past. Harper made his apology but did not follow with action of any kind. The apology is just a band-aid that makes no attempt to resolve the issue. This apology was seen to have more “depth and gravity” than the apology made to the schools by the Chretien government in 1998 (“A long-awaited apology for residential schools,” 2013). But after the apology there needs to be more of an attempt at a conversation with those who endured the residential schools to see how to best proceed in improving the current lives of the survivors. It will never be possible to completely erase the past from their minds but we can show we care through actions.
    This apology did however, bring attention to the issue of residential schools, a past that many would rather avoid examining and leave in the past. The apologies open up the conversation for residential school survivors to share their own stories and help others understand exactly how the residential schools affected their lives. This is a conversation that needs to happen and be continued. We cannot afford to forget our past.
    I believe that Stephen Harper’s apology was sincere and heartfelt; however it was not followed by the needed action. The conversation with the residential school survivors needs to continue and remain open. While the apology is a step in the right direction, I do not believe that it is enough. More needs to be done for the Aboriginals to help with the trauma that they endured. Many of the survivors may benefit from talking to therapists, or perhaps just sharing their story. There needs to be an examination not of what we can do to cover the past, but what we can do to change the future.
    http://www.cbc.ca/archives/categories/society/education/a-lost-heritage-canadas-residential-schools/a-long-awaited-apology.html

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  9. The Vancouver Sun (Rolfson, 2008) reported that the apology was bittersweet for B.C. survivors. Quotes from the article show a variety of disappointment in and acceptance of the apology. While some survivors thought the apology lacked sincerity, others were overjoyed to have the Prime Minister finally take responsibility for what happened in such recent Canadian history.
    From my non-aboriginal point of view it would appear that Harper’s apology was well-thought and sincere, though the actions or lack there-of speak far louder than any apology will. In Jack Layton’s response he stated that the country must take action to address the inequalities, the apology was not enough on its own. Gilles Duceppe called Stephen Harper to action to demonstrate the sincerity of his apology. Deliberate and useful steps seem to be lacking in the years after the apology.
    This call for action has seemed to fall on deaf ears or at least inactive ones as far as government leaders are concerned. Stephen Harper’s Priorities web page (Government of Canada) makes no reference whatsoever to the apology or to forward action of reconciliation with the aboriginal peoples of Canada. If the leader of the country is failing to take action, change falls to those wanting it most and willing to put in the work. These revolutionaries include members of the Idle No More campaign and community role models like Michael Champagne from Winnipeg, MB. Idle No More (The Vision) is calling for building sovereignty and a resurgence of nationhood for the aboriginal peoples of Canada. It is groups like this who will create force and power to cause change for the government, not the other way around. Even without being involved in the movement, the participants are visible and audible throughout Winnipeg, there is no way to ignore the call for change.
    For centuries government has been referred to as the leaders, when in reality change comes from motivated individuals working until the government finally acknowledges the need for change rather than the government implementing change and hoping the country will follow. Reconciliation with Canada’s aboriginal peoples will happen on a person to person level in small communities around the province where change can actually be seen.

    Government of Canada. (n.d.). Priorities. Retrieved September 30, 2013, from Prime Minister Stephen Harper: http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/feature.asp?pageId=133&featureId=4
    Idle No More. (n.d.). The Vision. Retrieved September 30, 2013, from Idle No More: http://www.idlenomore.ca/vision
    Rolfson, C. (2008, June 12). Apology Bittersweet for B.C. Survivors. Retrieved September 30, 2013, from Vancouver Sun: http://www2.canada.com/vancouversun/features/apology/story.html?id=706fb29f-c41a-456c-8510-de67d860ed63


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  10. As much as I disagree with our Prime Minister, I do believe he was being sincere – at least to some extent – with his apology. I think that it is common for a formal apology to seem insincere. This was the first apology of its kind in Canada, and in my opinion, is important to taking the first steps towards repaying what our ancestors have done. The thing about this is that while Stephen Harper may have been sincere in his words, it is his actions that really matter. What has the Conservative Party done for our Aboriginal population aside from supporting the Truth and Reconciliation Committee? As far as I can tell they have not done very much. While our government may be slow to begin making changes and developing more programs to assist those in need, the Canadian population has begun to awaken to the issues at hand. Public policy beings with the public and is represented by the government they appoint.

    I believe that the issues which are at hand are of such a sensitive and grand nature that we can’t simply solve this with an apology. Dealing with the vastly complex problems Canada has created for itself will take time, just as healing does for any other injury. I believe that the way that our government went about trying to apologize for the problem wasn’t the best choice. The average payment for this being around 30,000$ - and amount slightly over a minimum wage’s annual salary. Many of the people who were forced to attend residential school left with addiction problems and were also not prepared to deal with difficult life decisions or skills such as budgeting – so where would this money go? I believe this money could have been more effectively used through things such as community projects, improving utilities, or education. What will happen next with this situation is still unknown, but at least we are starting someplace.

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  11. Considering that the unfair treatment of aboriginal students in residential schools began in the early 1870’s, I feel that current Prime Minister Stephen Harpers apology was long overdue. That being said, I feel that the apology itself was quite good as Prime Minister Harper was able to acknowledge Canada’s mistake, accept responsibility and place the blame squarely on his shoulders. This is all well and good but what I found interesting was towards the end of the speech Harpers continued recognition of what was done wrong and his repeated sorry’s and apologies over and over again. Personally, this form of begging for forgiveness comes across to me as insincere and in genuine. As an aboriginal person I would much rather Prime Minister Harper spoke less about how sorry he is and more about the future of aboriginals in residential schools and what he plans to do moving forward. Finally, it should be noted that Mr. Harper does touch on what he hopes the future will look like for aboriginals in residential schools at the end of his speech. Explaining that it will be a partnership founded on shared history and mutual respect between Canadians and aboriginals, but again he fails to explain how this will be accomplished. In summary, I found that Prime Minister Harpers apology was just that, an apology and nothing more. In this instance I feel that actions would speak louder than words ever could and I strongly believe that Mr. Harper failed to include any real initiative and affirmative action steps throughout his speech. This apology begs the question, “how are you going to make it right?” from all aboriginal peoples and sadly I am still not sure if Prime Minister Harper knows the answer to that very question.

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  12. I have heard lots on the residential schools in the past, and knew the government had did some sort of apology to the individuals and families who were affected by them, but it was eye opening to listen to the actually apology this afternoon.
    First of all, to answer the above question, “Did Harper truly mean his words or was it in attempt to create political capital?” I believe yes…sort-of. I do believe that Stephan Harper, does show tremendous sorrow, and respect for the individuals of residential schools, and that he feels horrible for the aboriginal people affected by them, and so does many in the Canadian government, and other non-aboriginal Canadian citizens. I also feel that since this was a national issue, an apology from the government and Stephan Harper seemed like the logical, and an ethical thing to do. And according to the article, Harper ‘sorry’ for native residential’ the majority of aboriginal people accepted the apology and were very pleased that it was made. However, Stephan Harper was making an apology for something he wasn’t really a part of. Sure, he is the leader of Canada know, but he wasn’t then. He may have grown up knowing about residential schools, hearing about them, but he wasn’t the one who created this educational system. So, therefore I think the only truly sincere apology can come from those who were involved in the issue. Now I have no clue how old these people would be now, but if they are alive and are well they should be the ones coming forward and apologizing for their actions.
    Secondly, I did like that Harper noted in the apology that this such act will never happen again. I think we should move away from the subject. We shouldn’t forget about it and we should assist those who are dealing with the impact of the residential schools, but just move forward and find a way to provide equal, ethical, and rich education for all, aboriginal and non-aboriginal.

    Diebel, L. (2008, June 12). Harper 'sorry for native residential schools. The star. Retrieved from http://www.thestar.com/news/2008/06/12/harper_sorry_for_native_residential_schools.html

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  13. I’ve considered this question for quite some time and I’ve come to a conclusion that I will try to summarize here.

    I don’t think the apology was a good idea. On the one hand you have the people who the apology is meant for. These aboriginal people feel that the apology was insincere. Activist Gladys Radek was quoted by the Epoch Times to say: "It's only words, we want to see action. How hard is it to say 'I'm sorry'? And if they do mean it well then they wouldn't be taking away all our educational programs, they wouldn't be taking away our Aboriginal Mother's Centre, they wouldn't be taking away funding for programs for the health and welfare of our women and children. They wouldn't be doing that if they were genuinely sorry."

    On the other hand we have people who know nothing of the whole situation saying that it’s just an empty gesture or a waste of time. Rita Blind, a former residential school student had this to say: "To me, the Prime Minister's speech was dead. I know it didn't come from the heart, it came from his head. He was reading and reading and there was nothing, no contact with the camera, nothing. It didn't come from his heart, he's just doing it, it's an action that he has to do.” This opinion is further instigated, as a previous poster noted, by the complete lack of mention of Aboriginal Peoples on the conservative governments website.

    Some non-aboriginal people that I asked about it even see it in a negative light saying that it is just one more way the government is pointlessly pandering to the aboriginal people again.

    So to summarize: The people it is meant for don’t believe it and are angered by the lack of action behind the apology or see it as an empty gesture and the people it is not meant for either think it is a waste of time or a negative action by the government.

    This isn’t to say there is nobody that agrees with the idea, but they seem to be the minority, and I feel that these people would be far more appreciative of actions more than words anyway, just like the people who felt the apology wasn’t enough.

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  15. As I was sitting here in a comfortable suburban home writing on my laptop, I begin to wonder what the communities truly affected by this event (directly or indirectly) are thinking when they hear this...or did they even hear this? (I couldn’t help but notice the people in attendance where all the big names in politics and the Canadian world in general....where were the so-called average, everyday people in all this?) As I try to put myself in their shoes, I read survivor testimonies on the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions website...All I can come up with is the rather unintelligent musing of this...I have found myself at a loss of words, people who truly know me, know that this is not something which happens often to me.
    All that being said I will simply start off by saying the first thing that came to mind...What a huge question you have purposed to us here. However, it’s good that you are putting it out there as it gives people a chance to really think about the issue at hand and try and come up with an answer. However, I feel I might disappoint you because I don’t have a simple or solid answer one way or the other. That being said, given the fact that my recent group project was on this very topic, I felt it was appropriate to put my two cents in so to speak.
    During my research on this topic I found a whole range of answers to the question of whether Harper made a sincere apology or whether he did so as simply a political move. The results I found, led me to become more conflicted over the answer to this question than I previously had been. I ultimately concluded that while I would like to believe he was genuine in his apology, I’d be naive to think that it was completely unmotivated by politics or that he didn’t have an ulterior motive in expressing the apology now. Admittedly this is a relatively weak position to take but I feel it’s the most honest way for me to answer this question. As I said that is solely my opinion as the results I found were largely unsatisfactory in giving me any form of a solid opinion on one side or the other.
    I have taken a couple human rights and social justice courses. I have taken a deep interest in human rights and social justice in general...My reason for saying all this is to say that I am not an ignorant person. My lack of words isn’t a sign of lack of intelligence but simply literally a lack of words.
    Something that continues to surprise me is the fallacy that Conservatives continue to put forward regarding their concerns for Aboriginal rights. As I discovered from both the Truth and Reconciliation and the Conservative websites, they say very little on what should be done to help the Aboriginal community as a whole. I liked the part in the Blog that said something to the effect that the solution of taking children out of the communities is actually repeating the original thing for which the government has just apologized. I do however believe that in this case it is now being used as way of providing a better life for the youth, by protecting them from becoming victims of circumstance.
    All that being said I still maintain that simply paying out victims or giving money is only a band aid solution and should not be seen as a permanent fix. To reiterate a tired cliché “Money doesn’t buy happiness”. A quote I’d like to leave you with is this, (I forget who said it and exactly how it goes, but this is the gist of it) “money doesn’t make the world go ‘round, but sure does make the ride a whole lot easier.” What I mean with this quote is that as nice as it is to give money to victims, is money really helping them to heal and us to ensure that these events are not repeated? I don’t think so. So I don’t have an answer to this, but it’s something to think about...what can we do to make a better future for Canada, one in which Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals and all citizens of Canada live together in peace and harmony with each other? (A Canada where we can finally move on and work towards a better future for us all. A nation we can all be proud to call our home.)

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  16. In regards to Stephen Harper’s apology towards residential schools, I do not know if it was sincere. Prior to his public apology there had been no apologies giving in this formality. In fact I congratulate the effort of Harper in taking the stand to apologize. The apology should have happened sooner, but so should the realities of residential schools never have happened. It is easy to analyze Harper’s apology and analyze I shall. This apology is only the start of it all; verbal formalities such as these are essential but actions that back up words are also equally essential.
    Interesting enough the government's original plan for the day of the apology did not allow for responses from the floor by the five aboriginal leaders. In the House the day before, Liberal MP Tina Keeper said, "Surely, this House owes survivors the courtesy of listening to them in return, right here, immediately, on the official Hansard." A clever use of the rules of the House, suggested by NDP press secretary Ian Capstick just an hour before the apology, set the stage for a unanimous agreement to allow the aboriginal leaders to speak after the apology http://www.cbc.ca/archives/categories/society/education/a-lost-heritage-canadas-residential-schools/a-long-awaited-apology.html).
    It is simple, just like when we were children, we would commit a wrong doing and apologize for it. Following this, our actions would demonstrate how well we truly learned, and accordingly demonstrate how flawed our human nature is. Looking at the current situation within the Conservative Party of Canada we see very little action taking place to support the apology made by Harper. It is wonderful that there is talk about land development, clean energy technologies, environmental safety upgrades, and better adult education (http://www.conservative.ca/?page_id=44). While they include some minor topics regarding chiefs and councillors salaries/expenses to be publicised these topics are minimal in the healing needing to take place. While Harper includes these it is obvious his mind is elsewhere currently. Additionally giving money to hurt Aboriginals is a nice gesture in theory it truly cannot replace a world of hurt. As discussed in class last week, I think it would be beneficial to have these monies given to communities to build and create centers/programs that aid to the communities continued growth.
    In closing, I find it difficult to destruct ones apology because truthfully, as much as we debate or blog about this issue we may never really know what Harper’s heart feels. I want to give the benefit of the doubt to Harper and his government and believe it is real, that they meant it, mean it, and will continue to act on it. However, as touched on, actions are important in the wake of apologies.

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  17. I think that the apology from the federal government was a very important first step in working towards a solution to the inhumane ways that the Aboriginal population in Canada was treated. Our government destroyed families and communities by tearing them apart at the seams. While I believe that part of Stephen Harper must have been sincere with his apology, I feel like the federal government is trying to solve the problem in the wrong way. The idea of simply giving people money as an apology is only a band-aid solution which will help temporarily but not in the long run. What I feel the government should have done was to put this money into community based organizations whose mission it is to educate and assist their communities in becoming independent and successful in their lives.

    The federal government only allocated two billion dollars for payments in this case, $10,000 for the first year spent at a residential school and $3,000 for each following year. (Brown, A01) This amount of money isn't very much over a year of minimum wage. The students who were sent to these schools are faced with many problems – substance abuse or gambling addictions to name a few. This money will help them for a short time but if they have no concept of investing the money into education or business their cycle will continue.

    Stephen Harper did the right thing in apologizing but was he just following suit to save face? Just months prior to this apology, the Prime Minister of Austrailia Kevin Rudd made an apology in the same vein to the Aborigines of the continent. I will end off with a quote by one of my fellow classmates that stuck with me

    “Apologies make for great headlines but, apparently, they don’t really require you to implement any of the implicit commitments made within them on the international stage “ (Neufeld, 2013)






    Brown, DeNeen http://askville.amazon.com/Canada-Slammed-Treatment-Native-People/AnswerViewer.do?requestId=39671290

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  18. I believe the apology that Mr. Harper provided in 2008 was appropriate and sincere. From reading the transcript and listening to the podcast Mr. Harper apologized for all the wrong doings that the residential schools had done to the first nations people of Canada. But was this apology given to early? Recent discoveries of experiments to first nations children including nutritional experiments have been creeping into the media. Jorge Barrerra of ATPN National News reports that the Residential School Commission received the documents about the nutritional experiments in 2010 two years after the official apology. http://aptn.ca/pages/news/2013/07/23/residential-school-commission-has-held-nutritional-experiment-documents-since-2010/. This brings into question what else is being hidden from Aboriginal people and the rest of Canada for that matter. In a story by Teresa Smith of the Ottawa Citizen she reports that “The government has so far downplayed the number of documents it has and called others requested by the TRC “irrelevant.” For his part, Murray Sinclair, the Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission estimates there are millions of documents still outstanding” http://www.ottawacitizen.com/health/Carleton+student+wants+residential+schools+documents+released/8712899/story.html. Why withhold the documents? Is it not the responsibility of the commission to determine if the documents are irrelevant or not? My question is what is in these documents? I believe that Canadians have the right to know the true history of residential schooling in Canada. It might be a dark history but we have a right to know and the first nations peoples of Canada have the right to know so that they can start the healing process and move forward from this dark past. So what I want to know is why did Mr. Harper and the rest of the government decide that 2008 was the appropriate time to apologize. Shouldn't they have waited to all the facts and all the reporting was done so that they could truly know what they where apologizing for.

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  19. I believe that Stephen Harper’s apology was sincere. However, it is not farfetched to say that it was not extensive enough. In my opinion, an apology can only do so much to help the healing process. As the saying goes one must not just talk the talk, but walk the walk. I am not sure the government has done enough to resolve one of its biggest mistakes. Ryan McMahon states the following, “We kind of see it for what it was. It was necessary the country was at a boiling point. We also see what is coming from it, more funding cuts than ever. The situation we are now in its way worse than it was five years ago,” he said. “If you are blindly saying reconciliation is here, let’s all work together and hold hands, well that’s not the reality” (APTN National News, 2013). He points out that reconciliation has not yet been reached. As a future teacher, I believe it is my responsibility to be an ally to aboriginal youth and help them succeed in life. Teaching aboriginal culture in schools is important because so many people lost their culture as a result of the residential schools. Being a teacher is not just about teaching but learning as well. I think I have much to learn in regards to the aboriginal culture and look forward to learning more. Stephen Harper and the government could have been more proactive in attempting to meet in the middle with the aboriginal people. Many people continue to struggle as a result of the residential school system and need help to get back up on their feet. I do not know what the solution is but I feel like there are people who get paid lots of money and should be able to figure it out. On a personal level, I will be an ally like I said and attempt to empower aboriginal youth. I am hopefull for a brighter future for aboriginal youth and the possibility that non aboriginals will learn more about a culture they may not be too familiar with.

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  20. We cannot change what happened in the past; we cannot go back in time and do things differently. What’s done is done. This issue will not be resolved through apologies, it may never even be resolved. That’s not the point. The most important thing now is to look ahead and see how we can move forward together. I believe Stephen Harper is being genuinely sorry for the past, but what his speech lacks is a vision for the future.
    In December 2010, a progress report of sorts was issued by the Senate on how much progress has been made since the official apology, called The Journey Ahead: Report on Progress Since the Government of Canada’s Apology to Former Students of Indian Residential Schools. This report noted five key issues relating to progress. The Senate says that reconciliation will take time and effort across a wide range of peoples. They recommend to recognize and remember survivors and their stories through events, being sure to also focus on women and youth’s stories and their own uniqueness. The Senate believes that healing programs should be made or continue to be available to survivors and their communities through a long period of time. Finally, the Senate believes that in order to both prevent this from happening, as well as a step towards recognition of those to whom this has happened, a reformation of education is needed. We need to involve this issue into schools and education, focusing on teacher education, curriculum additions and increased supply of related materials. This issue has been ignored in society for long enough, it is time to introduce this topic into schools. We learn about the Holocaust in World War II in school, should we not also be educated in this dark, relatively recent part of Canadian history which has affected and continues to affect our neighbors and friends today.

    O'Brien, G. W. (2010). The journey ahead: Report on progress since the government of Canada’s apology to former students of Indian residential schools. Retrieved from Parliament of Canada website: http://www.parl.gc.ca/Content/SEN/Committee/403/abor/rep/rep07dec10-e.pdf

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  21. “Did Harper truly mean these words or was it an attempt to create political capital? Does it even matter?” These words conclude the introduction to the article just before the transcript of Stephen Harper’s apology begins. In my opinion, these words were the least heartfelt they possibly could have been. There is a major difference between a heartfelt apology and an apology that can be identified as politically driven by the majority of people in Canada. All one has to do is read the transcript to identify this. It is clear that an apology was needed to address this period of Canadian history and its devastating effect on the Aboriginal peoples of Canada, but could politics not have been left out of the apology....which could be a tough thing to do considering this speech was delivered by the political head of Canada. However, it could still be done.

    According to a study published in 2013, a survey of Aboriginal peoples in Canada indicated that the apology was a step in the right direction, but most did not believe that their quality of life would be improved or that they would be treated with greater respect following the apology (Bombay, Matheson, & Anisman, 2013). With this information, it is not hard to see that Harper’s apology on behalf of the Canadian government may only have been words. Blatz, Schumann, and Ross (2009) suggest that there is six essential parts to a government apology that make it psychologically effective: remorse, acceptance of responsibility, admission of wrong-doing, acknowledgement of victim suffering, promises for the future, and reparations. Although all of these can be seen within the apology, it still seems too politically worded to be sincere to the victims of this dark period in Canadian history. The words that make up the apology seem to be too carefully chosen; not in a positive way that has a positive impact on the people which it addresses, but in a way that serves to protect the interests of the federal government.

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  23. This was the first time I had ever heard Stephen Harper’s apology speech for the tragedies that came with the Indian Residential Schools. To be honest I was not well educated on all that went on during that dark period in Canada’s history. In order to become more educated, I read an article posted on CBC News titled “A History of Residential Schools in Canada”. I found this article to be very useful as it answers a variety of Frequently Asked Questions based on Indian Residential Schools. After reading your blog post as well as this CBC News article I have formed my own opinion about Stephen Harper’s apology.

    Although Stephen Harper spoke in third person and it was incredibly formal, I do feel that he was truly sincere in his apology. I do however, feel that is was incredibly important and necessary for this speech to have occurred because it was and still is a very serious issue. I believe that Harper spoke in such a formal way due to the severity of the topic. It is not something to be spoken of lightly. Also, he was not only speaking for himself, but for the entire nation therefore I find it was necessary to be so formal.

    Although I feel Harper was sincere in his apology, I do not feel as though his apology heals all the wounds caused by the Indian Residential Schools. These are scars that were placed on people that will never quite heal, no matter how many apologies are ensued. I feel that what the government is currently doing in an attempt to compensate for the atrocious conditions of these schools is not going to heal those who were affected. There is no amount of money or apologies that will bring back the loved ones lost due to Indian Residential Schools. However, I do feel that this apology was a step in the right direction; towards trust once again.

    Sources: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/a-history-of-residential-schools-in-canada-1.702280

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  24. Though the words of the official Indian Residential Schools apology are very appropriate, I always struggle to gauge the sincerity of government apologies and believe that there must be a calculated and strategic reason behind any official statement. September 13, 2007, was a watershed moment as the United Nations adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP). The document addressed many issues affecting Indigenous people and moved towards a consensus on the minimum standards necessary for their survival, dignity, and well-being. Though many countries accepted the declaration, Canada, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand, all countries with strong colonial backgrounds, voted against UNDRIP. Despite internal pressures, the Canadian government waited until the other hold-outs, including the United States, had lent their support to the document before offering its own. Even once the decision had been made, the government was sure to provide several caveats, outlining several articles which it was not in agreement with. In a similar manner, the government waited until the religious institutions involved with the residential schools had offered their own apologies before issuing any statement. Furthermore, as Roméo Saganash states, “An apology, once made, is only as good as the actions that come after it.” In the cases of the Indian Residential School apology and the reluctant support of UNDRIP, it seems as though there have been little, if any, actions to improve the standards of living of Aboriginal people in Canada. Statistics regarding poverty, education, disease, and crime, illustrate that Canada continues to fail its own people. While I like to think that the apology was sincere, given past histories and the nature of politicians and the governing bodies they represent, I question the motives for their actions. The treatment of Indigenous people is still poor and must change if the Prime Minister wishes to validate the claims he has made.

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  25. The apology from Prime Minister Stephan Harper is the first step in reconciliation. Recognizing the injustice caused through residential schools is necessary in transforming the future health of the Aboriginal people of Canada, and to the cooperation and forward movement of Aboriginal and Non Aboriginal affairs. The effects of Indian Residential Schools can be felt in current political and social development in Canada. Recognizing the source of these issues, and getting to the root of the injustice is the only way to find helpful and imaginative ways forward. The question can be asked whether or not the Prime Minister’s apology was sincere or not. This is an important question to wrestle with; however it is also important to take this apology and hold those in power accountable for what they have now publically said. Bringing the apology into public reframes the conversation, and legitimizes the depth of pain felt throughout the Aboriginal communities and our country as a whole. People must use this apology as a starting point to create lasting understanding and empathetic social change.

    Sincere or not, we as citizens of Canada can now point back to this moment where the country admitted fault. It is a marking point in reminding our leaders that they admitted to systematic social injustice to our Aboriginal people. We can hold our leader accountable in their actions moving forward, always using this apology as the reminder that we must do all we can to make things as right as we possibly can. This apology should weigh heavily on Indian Affairs, in that it should be at the center of all decisions moving forward. The conversation has now been opened up to a new way of moving forward, one based in repentance. There is no longer an excuse to view Aboriginal social issues as strictly “Indian problems.” We must now view it as something Canada has been implicit in creating, and, if Canada is the country it claims to be, will work to put right what was done wrong. This means it’s time to ask our leaders to be accountable to the apology they gave.

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