Minister Justin Trudeau welcomes residential survivor Toby Obed to the
stage after delivering an apology on behalf of the Government of Canada
to former students of the Newfoundland and Labrador residential schools.
(Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)
Published November 25, 2017
HAPPY VALLEY-GOOSE BAY, LABRADOR - CANADA — On Friday,
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau formally apologized to former
students of Newfoundland and Labrador residential schools before
hundreds of residents of Happy Valley - Goose Bay, Labrador.
In his apology,
Trudeau admits in residential schools that "many former students were
sorely neglected, while others were subjected to tragic physical and
Residential schools in Canada were counterpart to Indian boarding
schools in the United States, where indigenous children were taken from
the familial homes to places in schools to "Kill the Indian, save the
man" concept that sought to strip Native people of their culture and
Trudeau's apology in Labrador seeks to rectify former Prime Minister
Stehpen Harper's failure to include the Innu, Inuit and NunatuKavut
people of Newfoundland and Labrador in his 2008 apology. The Harper
administration said the Native people there were not acknowledged then
because the residential schools were already in operation prior to
the Newfoundland and Labrador became part of Canada.
The full transcipt of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's apology can be read below:
“The treatment of Indigenous children in residential schools is a dark
and shameful chapter in our country’s history. By acknowledging the past
and educating Canadians about the experiences of Indigenous children in
these schools, we can ensure that this history is never forgotten.
At the turn of the twentieth century, the Moravian Mission and the
International Grenfell Association established schools with dormitory
residences for Indigenous children with the support of the province of
Newfoundland and Labrador. Their stated purpose was to educate Innu,
Inuit, and NunatuKavut children from the communities of Black Tickle,
Cartwright, Davis Inlet, Goose Bay, Hebron, Hopedale, Makkovik, Nain,
Northwest River, Nutak, Postville, Rigolet, Sheshatshiu and other parts
of Newfoundland and Labrador. We now know, however, that Indigenous
children in these schools were isolated from their communities,
families, traditions and cultures. These residential schools were
operated from 1949 until the last school closed in 1980, with the
support of the Canadian government.
To move forward with reconciliation, we must understand the role of
residential schools in our history. We must recognize the colonial way
of thinking that fueled these practices. It’s important because it was
there, in these residential schools, that many former students were
sorely neglected, while others were subjected to tragic physical and
sexual abuse. Many experienced a profound void at the loss of their
languages and cultural practices, while others were not properly fed,
clothed or housed. Ultimately, every single child was deprived of the
love and care of their parents, families and communities.
Children who returned from traumatic experiences in these schools looked
to their families and communities for support but, in many cases, found
that their own practices, cultures and traditions had been eroded by
colonialism. It was in this climate that some experienced individual and
family dysfunction, leaving a legacy that took many forms. Afterwards,
some experienced grief, poverty, family violence, substance abuse,
family and community breakdown, and mental and physical health issues.
Unfortunately, many of these intergenerational effects of colonialism on
Indigenous people continue today.
On September 28, 2016, the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador
approved the negotiated settlement agreed to by the parties to provide
compensation to those who attended the residential schools in
Newfoundland and Labrador and those who may have suffered abuse. The
agreement also includes provisions for healing and commemoration
activities identified by former students. This settlement was made
possible because of the exceptional courage and strength of
representative plaintiffs and other former students who came forward and
spoke about their experiences. Sadly, not all are here with us today,
having passed away without being able to hear this apology. We honour
their spirits – and we cherish their memories.
We heard you when you said that the exclusion of Newfoundland and
Labrador from Canada’s 2008 Apology to Former Students of Indian
Residential Schools and the absence of an apology recognizing your
experiences have impeded healing and reconciliation. We acknowledge the
hurt and pain this has caused you – and we assure former students that
you have not been forgotten.
Today, I stand humbly before you, as Prime Minister of Canada, to offer a
long overdue apology to former students of the five residential schools
in Newfoundland and Labrador on behalf of the Government of Canada and
all Canadians. I also offer an apology to the families, loved ones and
communities impacted by these schools for the painful and sometimes
tragic legacy these schools left behind.
For all of you – we are sincerely sorry – pijâgingilagut – apu ushtutatat.
To the survivors who experienced the indignity of this abuse, neglect,
hardship and discrimination by the individuals, institutions and system
entrusted with your care, we are truly sorry for what you have endured.
We are sorry for the lack of understanding of Indigenous societies and
cultures that led to Indigenous children being sent away from their
homes, families and communities and placed into residential schools. We
are sorry for the misguided belief that Indigenous children could only
be properly provided for, cared for, or educated if they were separated
from the influence of their families, traditions and cultures. This is a
shameful part of Canada’s history – stemming from a legacy of
colonialism, when Indigenous people were treated with a profound lack of
equality and respect – a time in our country when we undervalued
Indigenous cultures and traditions and it was wrongly believed
Indigenous languages, spiritual beliefs and ways of life were inferior
Saying that we are sorry today is not enough. It will not undo the harm
that was done to you. It will not bring back the languages and
traditions you lost. It will not take away the isolation and
vulnerability you felt when separated from your families, communities
and cultures. And it will not repair the hardships you endured in the
years that followed as you struggled to recover from what you
experienced in the schools and move forward with your lives.
But today we want to tell you that what happened in those five schools –
at the Lockwood School in Cartwright, the Makkovik Boarding School, the
Nain Boarding School, the St. Anthony Orphanage and Boarding School and
the Yale School in Northwest River – is not a burden you have to carry
alone anymore. It is my hope that today you can begin to heal – that you
can finally put your inner child to rest. We share this burden with you
by fully accepting our responsibilities – and our failings – as a
government and as a country.
All Canadians possess the ability to learn from the past and shape the
future. This is the path to reconciliation. This is the way to heal the
relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada.
Today’s apology follows on the heels of a historic new approach to
reconciliation between Canada and Indigenous peoples.
And this year, as we reflect on 150 years of Confederation across
Canada, we have an opportunity to pause – to think about the future we
want to create, that we must create, that we will create, together, in
the coming decades and centuries.
We have an opportunity to rebuild our relationship, based on the
recognition of your rights, respect, cooperation, partnership and trust.
The Newfoundland and Labrador residential schools settlement is an
example of reconciliation in action, a settlement with healing and
commemoration at its core.
We understand that reconciliation between the Government of Canada and
Indigenous peoples can be a difficult process and is ongoing – and we
know it doesn’t happen overnight. But it is my hope that in apologizing
today, acknowledging the past and asking for your forgiveness, that as a
country, we will continue to advance the journey of reconciliation and
Former students, families and communities that were impacted by the
Newfoundland and Labrador residential schools continue to display
incredible strength in the face of adversity. Your resilience and your
perseverance are evident through your actions every day. By telling the
story of Newfoundland and Labrador residential schools, we ensure that
this history will never be forgotten. All Canadians have much to learn
from this story and we hope to hear you tell your stories – in your own
way and in your own words – as this healing and commemoration process
While we cannot forget the history that created these residential
schools, we must not allow it to define the future. We call on all
Canadians to take part in the next chapter – a time when Indigenous and
non-Indigenous people build the future we want together.”
November 24, 2017
On behalf of the Government of Canada
The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau,
Prime Minister of Canada
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