An upcoming apology by the Prime Minister of Canada to former students of Indian Residential Schools has a Squamish Nation chief “hopeful” that it will 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 hopes 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 will be making the apology in the
House of Commons on June 11 at about noon PST. The prime minister will rise in
the House and recount some of the history of residential schools before issuing
a formal apology. Opposition party leaders will then have a chance to respond
to the apology in the House.
Following the apology, Members of Parliament will then proceed
outside the House where they will partake in a series of ceremonial exchanges.
Those proceedings may include exchanges of tobacco as well as
smudging ceremonies, which are often comprised of burning sweet grass as part
of a cleansing ritual for the start of a meeting, according to Chuck Strahl,
minister of Indian Affairs and Member of Parliament for Chilliwack-Fraser
Canyon, who spoke to reporters on a conference call.
Jacob hopes that those who suffered in residential school will
be 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 will be affected largely by the way it is delivered.
“It all really depends on how he apologizes to the people
because it’s been a long, long process,” he said, adding that he’s not sure a
sufficient apology can be delivered to residential school survivors.