Wednesday’s apology by the Prime Minister of Canada to former students of Indian Residential Schools had a Squamish Nation chief “hopeful” that it would help survivors move on from a difficult era in Canadian history.
Chief Gibby Jacob of the Squamish Nation told Pique Newsmagazine on June 6 that he hoped the apology is a meaningful gesture to an estimated 100,000 former students who attended the schools.
“It's been a long time coming, and hopefully it means something
to all of those who've been traumatized spiritually, physically, emotionally
and mentally,” he said. “My hope is that the collective First Nations people
see this as an opportunity to close a door and quit being imprisoned and
victimized by the residential school trauma.”
Prime Minister Stephen Harper made the apology in the House of
Commons on June 11 at about noon PST. The prime minister rose in the House and
recounted some of the history of residential schools before issuing a formal
apology. Opposition party leaders then had a chance to respond to the apology
in the House.
Following the apology, Members of Parliament proceeded outside
the House where they took part in a series of ceremonial exchanges.
Jacob hoped that those who suffered in residential school were
able to derive some personal healing from the apology, though he fears that for
some, it may not bring much closure.
“What happens if this means nothing?” he said. “My fear is this
will turn out to be something that is not viewed as positive or will bring
“So what we’re going to be doing is going back to what has
always been our strength and what has kept us alive as a people throughout this
time, (and that) is our culture.”
Chief Leonard Andrew of the Lil’Wat Nation said receipt of the
apology by his people would be affected largely by the way it was delivered.
“It all really depends on how he apologizes to the people
because it’s been a long, long process,” he said prior to the apology. Andrew
added that he’s not sure a sufficient apology can be delivered to residential
“Within my community, probably 90 per cent of my people went to
residential school, but 100 per cent of the people were affected because the
others that didn't go were obviously affected by the fact that their next of
kin were pulled away from home,” Andrew said.