Canadians Split on Apology to Aboriginals

by NationTalk on March 8, 20081112 Views

Angus Reid Global Monitor : Polls & Research

March 07, 2008

(Angus Reid Global Monitor) – Adults in Canada are divided on whether their government should follow Australia’s example and offer an apology to its Aboriginal population, according to a poll by Angus Reid Strategies. 42 per cent of respondents think an official apology is warranted, while 39 per cent disagree.For over 60 years and into the 1970s, the Australian government—and Catholic Church missions—forcibly removed Australia’s Aboriginal children from their families and placed them in institutions or with foster families.

In 1995, a national Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission was established to look into the problems caused by the policy. A report released by the commission two years later concluded that the removal of children was a “violation of basic human rights” that amounted to genocide, because it sought to eliminate an ethnic group. The government began to work on several policies for the return of the “lost” children, as well as the reconciliation between Australians of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal origin.

In November 2001, the Vatican issued a formal apology for the Church’s role in the Stolen Generation. On Feb. 13, Australian prime minister and leader of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) Kevin Rudd became the first head of government to formally apologize to Australia’s Aboriginal population, saying, “For the pain, suffering and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry.”

In the 19th and 20th centuries, several residential schools for Aboriginal children operated in Canada under various religious denominations, and with funding from the Canadian government. Tens of thousands of children were taken from their families in an attempt to assimilate Canada’s Aboriginal population into the non-native culture. The residential schools ultimately became infamous because physical and sexual abuse was widespread.

The Canadian government has vowed to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to look into the history of the country’s residential schools. The TRC—which is a component of the $2.2 billion U.S. Residential Schools Settlement Agreement—will hear testimony from victims of physical and sexual abuse.

Last month, Canadian Assembly of First Nations (AFN) national chief Phil Fontaine discussed the importance of Australia’s apology, saying, “It is so significant and so positive and so important to Australia and we are anxious to receive an apology here. (…) We are still waiting for the apology. We’re still waiting to be engaged in helping write the apology, plus figuring out together with the government where the apology will be presented. Our call on this, of course, it has to be in Parliament, we have to see the prime minister rise in the House of Commons to apologize before the entire country.”

Polling Data

As you may know, the Government of Australia offered an official apology to the country’s Aboriginal population for the “laws and policies of successive parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss” on Australia’s Aboriginal peoples. Do you think the Canadian government should offer a similar apology to Canada’s Aboriginal population?

Yes 42%

No 39%

Not sure 19%

Source: Angus Reid Strategies
Methodology: Online interviews with 1,085 Canadian adults, conducted from Feb. 19 to Feb. 21, 2008. Margin of error is 3.0 per cent.

>Complete poll

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