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Squamish Nation chief 'hopeful' about apology

Prime Minister to apologize for residentital schools on June 11

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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 ultimate closure.

“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.

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