Three Little Words, uttered in the Hushed House of Commons Yesterday, History-Making words, “we are sorry”, Prime Minister Steven Harper apologized on behalf of the Federal Government and of the Nation to Canada's First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples for their suffering in the once-obligatory residential school system.
Mr. Speaker, I stand before you today to offer an apology to former students of Indian residential schools. The treatment of children in Indian residential schools is a sad chapter in our history.
In the 1870s, the federal government, partly in order to meet its obligation to educate aboriginal children, began to play a role in the development and administration of these schools. Two primary objectives of the residential schools 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 aboriginal cultures and spiritual beliefs were inferior and unequal. Indeed, some sought, as it 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.
Most schools were operated as "joint ventures" with Anglican, Catholic, Presbyterian or United churches. The government of Canada built an educational system in which very young children were often forcibly removed from their homes, 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
As the PM spoke, School Survivors in Public Galleries wept, their tears a tribute to every mother’s tears who cried for every child forcibly taken over from her for Generations.
Text of the Prime Minister’s Speech we are sorry>
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Reactions to Harper's Speech>