[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text
version below transcribed by carefully comparing three different audio/video
sources. See footnotes below for
clarification and further information.]
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.1
In the 1870's, 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.2
Two primary objectives of the
Residential Schools system were to remove and isolate children from the
influence of their home, families, traditions, and cultures, and to
assimilate them into the dominant culture. These objectives were based
on the assumption that Aboriginal cultures and spiritual beliefs were
inferior and unequal. Indeed, some sought,
as 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
One hundred and thirty-two federally-supported schools were located in
every province and territory, except Newfoundland, New Brunswick, and
Prince Edward Island.4 Most schools were operated as "joint ventures"
with Anglican, Catholic, Presbyterian, and 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.
and cultural practices were prohibited in these schools. Tragically,
some of these children died while attending residential schools, and
others never returned home.
The government now recognizes that the consequences of the Indian
Residential Schools policy were profoundly negative and that this policy
has had a lasting and damaging impact on Aboriginal culture, heritage,
and language. 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.5
The legacy of Indian Residential Schools has contributed to social
problems that continue to exist in many communities today.6
It has taken extraordinary courage for the thousands of survivors that
have come forward to speak publicly about the abuse they suffered. It
is a testament to their resilience as individuals and to the strengths of
their cultures. Regrettably, many former students are not with us
-- not with us today
and died never having received a full apology from the Government of
The government recognizes that the absence of an apology has been an
impediment to healing and reconciliation. Therefore, on behalf of the
Government of Canada and all Canadians, I stand before you, in this
Chamber so vital, so central to our existence as a country, to apologize to Aboriginal
peoples for the role the Government of Canada played in Indian -- in the Indian Residential Schools system.7
To the approximately 80,000 living former students, and all family
members and communities:
The Government of Canada now recognizes that it
was wrong to forcibly remove children from their homes, and we apologize
for having done this.
We now recognize that it was wrong to separate
children from rich and vibrant cultures and traditions -- that it created a
void in many lives and communities, and we apologize for having done
We now recognize that, in separating children from their
families, we undermined the ability of many to adequately parent their
own children and sowed the seeds for generations to follow, and we
apologize for having done this.
We now recognize that, far too often,
these institutions gave rise to abuse or neglect and were inadequately
controlled, and we apologize for failing to protect you.
Not only did
you suffer these abuses as children, but as you became parents, you were
powerless to protect your own children from suffering the same
experience, and for this we are sorry.
The burden of this experience has been on your shoulders for far too
long. The burden is properly ours as a Government, and as a country.
There is no place in Canada for the attitudes that inspired the Indian
Residential Schools system to ever prevail again. You have been working
on recovering from this experience for a long time and in a very real
sense, we are now joining you on this journey. The Government of Canada
sincerely apologizes and asks the forgiveness of the Aboriginal peoples
of this country for failing them so profoundly.8
We are sorry.
In moving towards healing, reconciliation, and resolution of the sad
legacy of Indian Residential Schools, the implementation of the
Residential Schools Settlement Agreement began on September 19, 2007.
Years of work by survivors, communities, and Aboriginal organizations
culminated in an agreement that gives us a new beginning and an
opportunity to move forward together in partnership.
A cornerstone of the Indian -- of the Settlement Agreement is the
Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This Commission
unique opportunity to educate all Canadians on the Indian Residential
Schools system. It will be a positive step in forging a new
relationship between Aboriginal peoples and other Canadians, a
relationship based on the knowledge of our shared history, a respect for
each other, and a desire to move forward with a renewed
understanding that strong families, strong communities, and vibrant
cultures and traditions will contribute to a stronger Canada for all of
God bless all of you.
God bless our land.