Justin Trudeau has apologised to hundreds of indigenous peoples in Canada who were forcibly placed into a system of boarding schools that were rife with abuse, but some local leaders say the prime minister’s apology does not go far enough.
Trudeau apologised to the indigenous students who attended residential schools in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, on Canada’s east coast, on Friday morning.
“Today, I humbly stand before you to offer a long overdue apology,” Trudeau said during a ceremony in the town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
“To all of you, we are sorry.”
About 150,000 indigenous children attended residential schools across Canada between the 1940s and late 1990s, when the last of the schools were closed.
Residential schools were created in an effort to assimilate indigenous children into white Canadian culture.
Trudeau: Residential school abuse among ‘hard truths that are part of Canada’s history’ [Drew Angerer/AFP]
Students were neglected, separated from their families and communities, prevented from speaking their native languages and learning about their culture, and many endured severe physical, sexual and emotional abuse.
Boarding Schools, Children And Family, First Nations, Foster Care, Novels, Canada
Today, we apologize to former students of Newfoundland and Labrador residential schools and to the families, loved ones, and communities for the painful & tragic legacy these schools left behind:
“These are the hard truths that are part of Canada’s history. These are the hard truths we must confront as a society,” Trudeau said on Friday.
Speaking at the ceremony, Sarah Anala, a residential school survivor, said: “to have the strength to stay alive until today is a miracle”.
Anala said she hoped the apology would have an effect on younger generations.
“Maybe today our younger people, our grown children, our grandchildren, will finally understand what had happened to us. And maybe our tears will now be more dry than before,” she said.
Trudeau’s teary apology to indigenous students
“Saying that we are sorry today is not enough,” said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in an apology to indigenous students affected by forced assimilation. “It will not undo the harm that was done
Trudeau also apologised to the families, loved ones and communities “impacted by the tragic legacy of these schools” and to anyone who attended the schools but has since passed away.
“Sadly, not all former students are here with us today, having passed away without being able to hear this apology. We are sorry for not apologising sooner, for not righting this wrong before now. We honour their spirits and cherish their memories,” Trudeau said.
However, in a statement earlier this week, the Innu Nation said it would not accept the prime minister’s apology.
Swampy Cree children prayed several times a day in 1960s.
by Alan Fisher
“Our elders are not ready to accept an apology that is made for such a small part of our experience,” Grand Chief Gregory Rich said in the statement, according to CBC News.
“Frankly, I don’t think Canada is truly ready to make an apology to Innu if it does not include recognition of other damages done to our people – I’m not satisfied that Canada understands yet what it has done to Innu and what it is still doing.”
This is the dormitory where Indigenous children lived while attending the North West River residential school in the 1970s. The school itself has been razed. (Marc Robichaud/CBC)
Indigenous children are over-represented in Canada’s child welfare system: while Aboriginal children represented seven percent of all children in Canada in 2011, they accounted for 48 percent of all those in foster care.
In 2008, Stephen Harper, Canada’s then prime minister, apologised for the government’s role in the countrywide residential school system.
Inside the abandoned dorm. (CBC)
But survivors in Newfoundland and Labrador were excluded from that apology – and an accompanying settlement – because Ottawa said the schools were in operation before the province formally joined the rest of Canada in 1949.
Hundreds of Indigenous children were placed in residential schools in Newfoundland and Labrador between 1949 and 1979.
The schools were run by International Grenfell Association, an agency that provided health, education and other services in the province, and the Moravian Church.
Last year, about 800 residential school survivors from the province reached a nearly $40m settlement with the federal government in a class-action lawsuit.
ABORIGINAL girls were chained to their beds, starved and flogged with leather belts until they bled, as punishment at the Retta Dixon Home in Darwin.
Canada’s Dark Secret
Obed said the government’s apology will allow survivors to finally begin to heal.
He added that he hoped it would lead to reconciliation between Indigenous and non-indigenous peoples in Canada.
“There is so much work left to be done. But now together, we can start,” Obed said.
Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a body entrusted with investigating the residential school system, concluded in 2015 that Canada had committed “cultural genocide” through the schools.
“Residential schooling was always more than simply an educational program: it was an integral part of a conscious policy of cultural genocide,” the commission said in its report.