Canadian Prime Minister’s apology on residential schools

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper released the first ever formal apology for the federally-funded Indian residential school program. The program, which operated from the 19th century until 1996, was comprised of 130 residential schools, where 150, 000 aboriginal, Metis and Inuit children were forcibly isolated from their families and culture. Operating under the guise of an education system, the Indian residential schools were part of a larger regime to rid Canada of aboriginal culture and values. As Harper acknowledged in his apology yesterday,

“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 apology was followed by responses from the leaders of the three opposition parties, as well as from four native leaders (of 12 representatives who were present). For more information on the schools, see CBC Canada’s coverage of the Truth and Reconciliation program. See here for Harper’s apology in English text.

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