TORONTO – June 11, 2018, marks the 10th anniversary of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Apology to Residential School survivors. It was a very powerful moment for all who were there, in the House of Commons, and on the lawn of Parliament Hill. Many people openly wept. Canadians from all walks of life watch on television. Many finally realized the trauma and tragedy that our Peoples endured. The trauma and tragedy that still endures – from children in care; to Missing and Murdered Women and Children; to the poverty and despair that results in suicide rates ten times higher than the Canadian average.
Canadians should be reminded of some of the words spoken by National Chief Phil Fontaine in his response to the Prime Minister:
“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”
Today, Shirley Roach, a survivor of the Shingwauk Residential School had this to say: “The Harper apology meant nothing to me. There was no feeling from his word or sincerity from his actions. The work of Murray Sinclair and the commissioners of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was what helped move reconciliation in Canada. Ten years later, governments still have a lot of work to do to make things right.”
For the survivors and their families, the pain lives on and is very real. Many survivors will never find peace. They will always remember the residential school children who were abused and killed. May survivors are still seeking justice – St. Anne’s Residential School is but one current case. Today, let us remember those who have passed, those who are still with us, and vow to re-double our efforts towards Truth and Reconciliation.
Isadore Day, Ontario Regional Chief