OTTAWA – Bernard Valcourt, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, issued the following statement today on the fifth anniversary of the Prime Minister’s 2008 historic Statement of Apology to former students of Indian Residential Schools and their families:
“Five years ago today, Prime Minister Stephen Harper stood in the House of Commons with all Parliamentarians, Inuit, Métis and First Nation leaders and offered a historic Apology to former students of Indian Residential Schools on behalf of the Government of Canada and all Canadians. He apologized not only to former students, but also their families and communities, whose lives were impacted by this dark chapter in our history. The Apology acknowledged that the policy of assimilation was wrong, had caused great harm, and has no place in our country”.
The Conservatives are celebrating the anniversary. First Nations Leaders are less excited.
AFN National Chief Atleo states, “There is a growing frustration among First Nations across the country with lack of action and lack of commitment on the part of the Government of Canada to work in real partnership with our peoples and governments”. Five years ago, the Prime Minister stated: ‘There is no place in Canada for the attitudes that inspired the Indian Residential Schools system to ever prevail again.’ “
“Those attitudes include the colonial notion that other governments know best for First Nations and have the right to make decisions for us, yet we have not seen change in the continued pattern of unilateral approaches and imposed legislation. This is incongruent with the apology and other commitments. We must break the pattern once and for all. Actions must match words. Our people are calling for a true and collective commitment to reconciliation that respects First Nations peoples and rights as the way forward to a stronger Canada,” continued National Chief Atleo.
The historic apology offered to residential school survivors took place in the House of Commons June 11, 2008. It included a commitment by Parliament and all of Canada to join First Nations on a shared journey toward healing and reconciliation, including ensuring continuity with healing efforts initiated through the Aboriginal Healing Foundation.
“On June 11 2008, our Prime Minister recognized the extraordinary courage of former students of Indian Residential Schools and asked for their forgiveness,” stated Minister Valcourt..
“The legacy of Indian Residential Schools is still felt today by Aboriginal people across Canada. Our Government recognizes this and that is why we have placed such importance on reconciliation and the restoration of Canada’s relationship with Aboriginal people. We acknowledge that we must forge a new relationship, one that is based on an appreciation of our shared history, a respect for each other’s cultures and traditions, and an honest desire to move forward together with a renewed understanding that Canada’s future will be stronger if we build it together”.
“All those affected by the Residential Schools must be supported in their healing journey,” said AFN Regional Chief Bill Erasmus who leads the national advocacy work in this area “The work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission remains fundamentally important and the Government of Canada must cooperate fully in achieving their mandate, including programming and supports for all survivors and their descendants.”
Minister Valcourt added “Our Government will continue to honour its commitment to these principles, and build on the concrete progress we have made over the last five years to ensure First Nations, Métis and Inuit are full participants in building a stronger country for all Canadians.”