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Canada apologizes for residential schools

B.C. First Nations welcome apology that is ‘a long time coming’



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“We must, together as a nation, face the truth to ensure that we never have to apologize to another generation, that the tragedy of forced assimilation of Aboriginal peoples in Canada never happens again,” he said.

Gilles Duceppe, leader of the Bloc Quebecois, offered an apology on behalf of his own party and said the best apologies are followed by action.

“Think about a little village, a small community from which all children are taken away,” he said. “And from then on there are no more children between seven and 16 years of age who played in the forest. You do not hear their laughs, their joy, warming the hearts of the elders.”

Statements from aboriginal leaders followed the politicians’ apologies. Fontaine, dressed in full Ojibwa regalia, said the apology marks a new relationship between Canada and its aboriginal people. His voice broke at times as he delivered his response.

“This day testifies to nothing less than the achievement of the impossible,” he said. “The attempts to erase our identities hurt us deeply, but it also hurt all Canadians and impoverished the character of this nation. …It is possible to end our racial nightmare together.”

While the viewers at the Chief Joe Mathias Centre welcomed Fontaine with heavy applause, it was Beverley Jacobs of the Native Women’s Association of Canada who drew the most enthusiastic response.

She was thankful for the apology, but was curious to know what will come next for aboriginal peoples in Canada.

“I didn’t see any other governments before today come forward and apologize, so I do thank you for that,” she said. “But in return, the Native Women’s Association wants respect.”

Viewers at the Chief Joe Mathias Centre cheered and applauded as she spoke.

Ian Campbell, a hereditary chief of the Squamish Nation, then led the centre in three traditional songs: first was a “snowbird song” to honour loved ones who have already died; second was a “warrior song” to honour loved ones working to heal and survive the past; and then a “canoe song” to honour loved ones of future generations.

Chief Gibby Jacob then said that the apology marks a point from which survivors of residential schools, along with their families and communities, need to move on.