Thursday, June 12, 2008

In Canada, Former Students of Native Residential Schools Get an Apology

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper stood in the House of Commons yesterday and apologized to the former students of government funded native residential schools. There were about 130 such schools in Canada, the last of which closed in 1996.

Speaking to an overflow crowd of aboriginal leaders and former students, some of whom wept when he spoke, Harper called the treatment of children in Indian residential schools “a sad chapter” in Canadian history.

"Today, we recognize that this policy of assimilation was wrong, has caused great harm, and has no place in our country," he said to applause.

More than 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and M├ętis children were removed from their communities and forced to attend the schools, where many were subjected to physical and sexual abuse.

The apology is the latest in a series of actions the government has taken to make up for its assimilation policy. In September, the government formalized a $1.9-billion compensation plan for victims. The government has also established a truth and reconciliation commission to examine the legacy of the residential schools.

Read more about it here. Hear about it on the CBC’s “As it Happens.”

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