12 June 2008

Canada Says Sorry

CANADA'S prime minister today officially apologised to natives for more than a century of abuses at residential schools set up to assimilate indigenous peoples.

"This policy of assimilation was wrong, caused great harm and has no place in our country," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in the House of Commons.

It was "a sad episode in our history," he said.

"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 apologise to aboriginal peoples for Canada's role in the Indian Residential Schools system," he said.

"We are sorry."

Beginning in 1874, 150,000 Indian, Inuit and Metis children in Canada were forcibly enrolled in the 132 boarding schools run by Christian churches on behalf of the federal government in an effort to integrate them into society.

Survivors allege abuse by headmasters and teachers, who stripped them of their culture and language.

As well, they say their education left them disconnected from their families, communities and feeling "ashamed" of being born native.

It was "the darkest chapter in Canada's history," said Chief Phil Fontaine of the Assembly of First Nations.

"They tried to kill the Indian in the child, to eradicate any sense of Indian-ness from Canada," he said.

The experience has also been blamed for poverty and desperation in native communities that breeds abuse, suicide, and crime.
blog comments powered by Disqus