OTTAWA – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde responded to the release of the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) today, stating that all Canadians and all governments have a role to play in reconciliation and closing the gap in the quality of life between First Nations and Canadians.
“All Canadians are affected by the impacts of the Indian residential schools system and it is time to commit ourselves to reconciliation and action,” said AFN National Chief Bellegarde. “The impacts of residential schools are still with us and are contributing to the gap in the quality of life between First Nations and Canadians. We must close that gap. The schools operated on the assumption that First Nations cultures and languages had to be eradicated and profoundly damaged the relationship between First Nations and Canada. We must repair that relationship. Action is long overdue and I believe that the Government of Canada must formally commit to working with First Nations and engaging Canadians in implementing the Commission’s calls to action.”
The TRC is hosting its closing events in Ottawa this week, following six years of work and hearing testimony from more than 7,000 former residential school students from across the country. The TRC released a summary of its findings today, including “calls to action” on a range of issues including child welfare, justice, education, health and more. The full final report is expected to be released later this year.
“Action on reconciliation will honour the former students of residential schools and their families and give meaning to the 2008 apology for the Indian residential schools,” said National Chief Bellegarde. “The work of the TRC gives Canadians an opportunity to understand their role in our shared history and our shared future, and provides governments an opportunity to work with us as partners in reconciliation. First Nations are committed to action and change. It is time to restore our original relationship of mutual respect, peaceful co-existence and sharing. It is time for reconciliation. The apology for the Indian residential schools was a shining moment for this country. But that apology compels action, otherwise it will be empty and meaningless. Together, we can and must take action to create a brighter future for us all.”
National Chief Bellegarde will take part in TRC closing ceremonies tomorrow, June 3, at Rideau Hall.