AFN National Chief Congratulates Australia’s Indigenous Peoples on Government Apology to its Stolen Generations
OTTAWA, Feb. 12 – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Phil Fontaine today expressed overwhelming joy to the Indigenous peoples of Australia and congratulated Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd for issuing an apology for the “Stolen Generations” as the first order of business by the new government.
“This apology is monumental for our Indigenous brothers and sisters in Australia, and throughout the world on righting a great wrong,” stated AFN National Chief Phil Fontaine. “First Nations in Canada applaud the Australian government for its demonstrated leadership on issuing this long awaited and profound apology. The forced removal of children from their parents was the most egregious of human rights violations imaginable, causing enormous harms.” Indigenous people in Canada and Australia were victims of the same racist assimilation policies, practiced in similar ways, causing similar harms. For years, Aborigine children in Australia were forcibly removed from their homes by the government and placed in schools. Thousands were physically and sexually abused and many were never returned to their families or communities.
To acknowledge First Nations’ solidarity with the Stolen Generations and the new government’s apology, National Chief Fontaine appointed Grand Chief Edward John, a prominent First Nations leader and residential school survivor to be present in the Australian Parliament to witness Prime Minister Rudd’s apology.
“It is obvious that Canada and Australia can and should work together on Indigenous issues, and learn from each other,” said the National Chief.
The Assembly of First Nations played a key and central role in concluding the recent Settlement Agreement on behalf of 80,000 survivors of Indian residential schools. Under the settlement, the Canadian government provided a $1.9 billion compensation fund for the ‘common experience’ of those who attended Indian residential schools. A further $5 billion will go towards compensation for individual abuses through an individual assessment process. There is also $125 million directed towards the Aboriginal Healing Foundation and the establishment of a 5 year Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to bring to light the full story of the residential schools.
“We expect the government of Canada to give a full and sincere apology at an early date,” said National Chief Fontaine. “We submitted a draft apology to the federal government in May of 2005 and we are still waiting to be consulted. We fully expect that this will happen soon so that we can move on with the healing and reconciliation that has been denied our people far too long.”
The National Chief noted that the new Australian government plans to support the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
“I am optimistic that the Canadian Government will, like the Australian Government, see the error of its ways and reverse its position on the UN Declaration,” the National Chief added.
As part of the effort to inform First Nations leadership and others about the implementation of the Declaration, the Assembly of First Nations and the First Nations Leadership Council of British Columbia are co-hosting a symposium in North Vancouver on February 19-20, 2008 at the Chief Joe Mathias Centre. This historic symposium will include presentations from recognized experts in Canada and around the globe, including Grand Chief Edward John and Alberta Regional Chief Wilton Littlechild who have dedicated many years of their professional careers to working on and advocating for the Declaration.
The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada.
For further information: Joan McEwen, AFN Communications Director, (613) 241-6789 ext. 242, cell (613) 324-3329, firstname.lastname@example.org; Nancy Pine, Communications Advisor – Office of the National Chief, (613) 241-6789 ext 243, cell (613) 298-6382, email@example.com