Will the Canadian Government ...
Union of Ontario Indians press release
CHIPPEWAS OF RAMA FN, ON, June 11 - Canada needs to demonstrate the sincerity of its apology for the legacy of Indian Residential Schools by including First Nations people in the country's future.
Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief John Beaucage joined thousands of Canadians who watched Stephen Harper's 3,600-word apology to First Nation, Metis and Inuit people for what the Prime Minister called "a sad chapter in our history."
"Our first thoughts today are for our Elders," said Beaucage. "Many of them have suffered life-long physical and emotional pain because of their residential school experiences."
"We are so proud that many Anishinabek lived long enough to hear Canada's apology to them. But the true test of Mr. Harper's words will be his government's actions to help our children have a better future than their parents and grandparents."
"We will know the apology was sincere when our citizens have access to the same homes, jobs, education and health care as all Canadians," said Beaucage.
The Grand Council Chief said the Prime Minister's apology sounded genuine and he was looking forward to upcoming bilateral discussions about Anishinabek Nation priorities.
Following the upcoming Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Assembly in Whitefish River FN, Beaucage will present Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl with a proposal to fund a language strategy that would include the establishment of a new immersion language institute to ensure the survival of the Ojiway language within the Anishinabek Nation. A language institute would help undo the loss of language experienced by most of the 80,000 residential school survivors.
"The devastating loss of language and culture suffered by First Nations people is one of the most tragic and long-lasting effects of the Indian residential school system. Today, many Anishinabek still are unable to speak their Native language," said Grand Council Chief. "This apology needs to be the catalyst for restoring First Nations languages. Now that we've taken steps towards healing and reconciliation, Anishinaabemowin, our Ojibway language, cannot be allowed to die."
The Anishinabek Nation incorporated the Union of Ontario Indians as its secretariat in 1949. The UOI is a political advocate for 42 member First Nations across Ontario. The Union of Ontario Indians is the oldest political organization in Ontario and can trace its roots back to the Confederacy of Three Fires, which existed long before European contact.
For further information: Marci Becking, Communications Officer, Phone: (705) 497-9127 (Ext. 2290), Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Assembly of the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador is the regional organization which regroups the Chiefs of the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador.
MONTREAL, June 11 /CNW Telbec/ - The Chiefs of the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, gathered at a regular Assembly, in Montreal, took notice of the apologies pronounced by the Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, for the harm caused to the victims of residential schools, commonly known as "Indian residential schools". After a minute of silence observed for the whole of concerned families and communities, the Chief of the Assembly of the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador (AFNQL), read an official declaration.
"If the government does not adopt concrete measures, especially towards our youths, its apologies would prove meaningless" stated Chief Picard, who was accompanied by several other Chiefs having attended residential schools.
"The victims of residential schools are not only those who lived there.
Many persons suffered and are still suffering, even if they never attended these places. Pain, hatred, anger and lack of understanding are transmitted from one generation to the other" further stated Chief Picard.
June 11, 2008
Today, the prime Minister of Canada presented his apologies to the survivors of residential schools, for the abuses they suffered. These abuses are a known fact and it certainly deserves apologies from the Canadian government.
More than 15 000 persons of the First Nations of Quebec went through this tragic period; they were dragged away from their family, as early as 7 years of age, then taken to a residential school, where they had to live ten months a year. The clear and admitted objective was to assimilate the young natives to the Canadian society. The method was categorical and cruel. The physical punishments were frequent and at times, reached unacceptable proportions. Many even lost their lives there.
Very quickly, the authorities of residential schools succeeded to instill in these children a feeling of shame for having been born from a First Nation, for being what they are. Their parents also developed a feeling of shame and disarray.
The residential schools left major scars. Its devastating effects are perceptible in many communities.
The victims of the residential schools are not only those who lived there. Many persons suffered and are still suffering, even if they never attended these places. Pain, hatred, anger and lack of understanding are transmitted from one generation to the other.
Is there a need to remind that the residential schools are part of a comprehensive strategy of assimilation, whose master piece is the Indian Act, a law which is still in force today? The values behind the system of residential schools are very much present today in the actions of the Canadian government who has been trying all this time, to control all the angles of our way of life, from birth to death, not to mention the education aspect.
The First Nations of Quebec and Labrador are wondering how the prime minister can apologize for the scandal of residential schools, while totally ignoring the crisis situations which prevail at this very moment, and which result from the same policy having justified the creation of residential schools.
How is it possible to justify, for example, the chronic under-funding of First Nations education, the key to the future of our youth? How is it possible to justify the under-funding of our social services? How is it possible to ignore the large number of children who are placed away from their community, because there is no prevention service within the communities? Our communities are suffering major problems, which have a direct link with the scandal of residential schools. Yet, the government is not providing the resources required to counter the crisis situation. It still refuses to grant our communities the sums comparable to those of the rest of the population.
While Canada ranks 4th on the Human Development Index, our First Nations are at the 68th rank.
Is the prime minister also apologizing for this situation?
Most of all, today, we invite the Canadian government to act concretely.
If the government does not adopt concrete measures, especially towards our youths, its apologies will prove meaningless.
/For further information: Alain Garon, Information and Communication Officer, AFNQL, (418) 842-5020, Cell.: (418) 956-5720/
NAN press release ...
THUNDER BAY, ON, June 11 /CNW/ - Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Stan Beardy welcomes and acknowledges today's apology by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the House of Commons in Ottawa for the abuse suffered through Residential Schools by First Nations people across Canada.
"Today's formal recognition of wrong-doing by Canada is crucial not only for the healing of the NAN members affected by residential schools, but also for their respect and dignity. This acknowledgement of injustice means that the healing process for First Nations people across the country can finally begin," said NAN Grand Chief Stan Beardy, who was present in the House of Commons for the apology.
"Today is an important occasion not only for First Nations but for all of Canada. On behalf of the people of Nishnawbe Aski I thank the Government of Canada for the Prime Minister's apology, and I hope that First Nations can finally begin to put to rest the devastating legacy of this shameful chapter of Canadian history," said Beardy.
Since 2005, NAN has publicly urged for a formal apology by the Prime Minister of Canada and continuation of programs focused on individual and community healing for the 90 percent of NAN members who have been impacted by the residential school system.
"Thousands of innocent lives were shattered by the residential school system, not only NAN members but First Nations across the province and country," said Beardy. "This apology does not erase the pain endured by survivors nor does it fix the broken families, Nations or promises that were a result of the residential school system but it is an important first step towards reconciliation between the Government of Canada and First Nations."
Events focused on the apology took place across the Nation today including an all-day event at Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School in Thunder Bay. NAN Deputy Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler gathered with over two hundred residential school survivors, their families, NAN Elders and supporters to share stories, grief and reflections on this much awaited apology.
The Assembly of First Nations has been negotiating with the Government of Canada since December 2004 to reach a deal that will compensate more than 12,000 Aboriginals currently participating in lawsuits seeking compensation for the effects of the residential school system that uprooted Aboriginal children across Canada from their home communities. An Agreement-in-Principle was reached with the former Liberal government November 2005 and subsequently a final agreement with the Conservative government April 2006.
Approximately 5,000 NAN members attended residential schools.
Nishnawbe Aski Nation is a political territorial organization representing 49 First Nation communities in James Bay Treaty 9 and Ontario portions of Treaty 5 - an area covering two thirds of the province of Ontario.
/For further information: Michael Heintzman, Media Relations Officer, Nishnawbe Aski Nation, (807) 625-4906, (807) 621-2790 mobile/
June 11, 2008
The federal government's historic apology to former students of the residential school program must signal the start of a better relationship between aboriginal Canadians and the rest of the country, aboriginal leaders say.
Addressing the House of Commons Wednesday following Prime Minister Stephen Harper's statement — the first formal apology ever offered by a Canadian prime minister to those subjected to the Indian residential school program — First Nations leaders called for a new era in aboriginal relations.
"Our peoples, our history and our present being are the essence of Canada," Assembly of First Nations National Chief Phil Fontaine told members of Parliament and hundreds of observers seated in the gallery.
"The attempts to erase our identities hurt us deeply. But it also hurt all Canadians and impoverished the character of this nation. We must not falter in our duty now. Emboldened by this spectacle of history, it is possible to end our racial nightmare together."
A group of 11 former students and aboriginal leaders surrounded Harper on the floor of the House of Commons as he read the apology. Although aboriginal leaders were not expected to be allowed to respond directly to Harper's statements, and those offered by all party leaders, they were ultimately given an opportunity to address the Commons.
"We know we have many different issues to handle. There are many fights still to be fought," said Fontaine, himself a former residential school student.
"What happened today signifies a new dawn in the relationship between us and the rest of Canada. We are and always have been an indispensable part of the Canadian identity."
Some of the 11 cried quietly during the ceremony as Harper, on behalf of all Canadians, expressed his regret for a policy of assimilation that "has caused great harm, and has no place in our country."
As the five aboriginal leaders on the floor took turns speaking, many emphasized the possibilities of the future following Harper's statement, calling for an end to the anguish and racism that has marred many residential school survivors' — and aboriginal Canadians' — lives for much of the last century.
About 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Métis children were removed from their communities, from as early as the 19th century to 1996, and forced to attend one of the country's 130-odd residential schools. Overseen by the Department of Indian Affairs, the schools aimed to force aboriginal children to learn English and adopt Christianity and Western customs as part of a government policy called "aggressive assimilation."
Many students lived in substandard conditions and endured physical, sexual and emotional abuse. Around 86,000 are still alive and eligible for compensation under a $2-billion federal government compensation package for those who were forced to attend residential schools.
Inuit leader and former ambassador 'filled with optimism'
Mary Simon, president of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and former Canadian ambassador to Denmark, said the event symbolized Canada's commitment to reconciliation and building a new relationship with aboriginal people — including First Nations, Métis and Inuit — across the country.
"I am also filled with optimism that this action by the government of Canada and the generosity in the words chosen to convey this apology will help us all mark the end of this dark period in the collective history as a nation," Simon said.
More than 30 events were staged across the country Wednesday so the government's apology could be viewed on television. Several ceremonies were also staged by survivors of the residential school program, among whom reaction to the statement was mixed.
Some agreed with Fontaine and Simon that the event paved the way for healing and progress. Others, however, said they thought Harper's delivery was insincere and emotionless.
Patrick Brazeau, another aboriginal leader who took the floor of the Commons Wednesday, congratulated Harper for being the first Canadian prime minister to formally apologize for the physical and sexual abuse that occurred in the schools. The chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples called Harper's decision the humane, moral and right thing to do.
Métis National Council President Clément Chartier, who spoke after Brazeau, said he hoped Harper's sentiments will resonate in the communities of those affected by the residential school system.
"I believe those statements made about the dark days and those actions that take place will be addressed and hopefully corrected in the future."
Beverley Jacobs, president of the Native Women's Association of Canada, whose grandmother was beaten and sexually abused, said that the government's words must now be followed by clear action.
"We've given thanks to you for your apology. But in return, the Native Women's Association wants respect."
With files from the Canadian Press