Prime Minister Offers Historic Apology to Residential School Survivors

by John McKiggan

Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued an apology to survivors of Indian Residential Schools today.


In an historic moment, he apologized on behalf of all Canadians for the destruction wrought by Canada’s policy of forced assimilation. CBC has extensive coverage of the apology and the history of the 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.

The Prime Minister recognized the abuse that many children were subjected to in the schools:

While some former students have spoken positively about their experiences at residential schools – these stories are far overshadowed by tragic accounts of the emotional, physical and sexual abuse and neglect of helpless children and their separation from powerless families and communities.

Many survivors have waited decades to hear the words:

Therefore, on behalf of the government of Canada and all Canadians, I stand before you, in this chamber so central to our life as a country, to apologize to aboriginal peoples for Canada’s role in the Indian residential schools system.

You can read the whole text of the apology here.

Today was an emotional day for the survivors of the Shubenacadie Indian Residential School, whom I have had the privilege of representing for the last 13 years. My only regret was that my friend Nora Bernard was not with us today to hear the apology.

But I know she was watching…and smiling.

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