Fontaine: Apologize to Native school students

Phil Fontaine is the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations.

"In the Oct. 16, 2007, Throne Speech, your government promised to apologize for residential schooling for First Nations, Métis and Inuit children which led to profound harms. Every expression and word of the apology will be of great importance to our peoples and will be carefully studied, as will its timing and place. After 150 years of waiting, nothing less than a complete, unencumbered and honest apology for this dark period in our shared history will do.

An apology acceptable to survivors must be offered in the House of Commons where the Prime Minister will address Parliament, the nation and the world. It must be an event as significant and meaningful as the apology to our brothers and sisters of the Stolen Generations of Australia, and our fellow Japanese Canadians. It must incorporate the ceremony and dignity that such a symbolic and historic occasion requires. The galleries must be filled with survivors, their families, as well as church and government representatives who will bear witness.

The content of the apology must end denial of truth and history. It must raise the awareness about the residential school policy and its disastrous consequences, admit that it was wrong, accept responsibility and provide us with solemn assurances that it will never happen again.

At minimum, the apology will acknowledge that a succession of governments systematically attempted to "kill the Indian in the child" by enforcing policies which separated children from families, prohibited the use of our languages and cultures, and indoctrinated us to believe that who we were and where we came from was not good enough for Canadian citizenship. It must acknowledge that the policies caused profound harm, loss and grief to individuals, families, communities and subsequent generations and recognize the need for reconciliation and healing."

Get the Story:
Phil Fontaine: Apology to native people must end 'denial of truth' (The Toronto Star 4/22)

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