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SAULT STE MARIE, ONTARIO–(April 18, 2007) –
On behalf of the National Residential School Survivors Society, we implore your awareness as our Head of State. There has been enormous development with regards to the relationship of Indigenous peoples in relation to mainstream Canada. However, we wish to convey our deep disappointment and regret for the refusal of the current Federal government to issue an apology to those Indigenous children of Canada who were subjected to the Indian Residential Schools (IRS) system in Canada.
Historically, Indian Residential Schools were created to educate the Indigenous Peoples of Canada, presumably the English language, law and commerce. However, in promoting the interests of the British Empire, Indian Residential Schools became a government funded and church operated establishment which advanced a severely exploitative and maltreating assimilation policy. The echo of this depraved policy lingers still throughout the halls of our parliament from the time when Indian Affairs Deputy Superintendent Duncan Campbell Scott declared:
I want to get rid of the Indian problem. …Our objective is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic, and there is no Indian question.Canada’s efforts to succeed the IRS system cultivated a policy which fostered insensitive, callous and ruthless means in the name of progression and civilization. Children were forcibly removed and displaced from their homes, disconnected from their family structure and made to attend Christian institutions, whereby they were forbidden to speak or practice their own noble languages, spirituality and culture.
The intergenerational-impacts of the IRS legacy have stanchioned the intentions of D.C. Scott and were the primordial buttresses for the crown of colonialism in Canada. These impacts also created a loss of dignity, respect, and identity amongst the children and their offspring of this ghastly legacy. These losses in turn created many of the underlying dysfunctions within the people who live with this everlasting burden, their families and communities.
Recently, legal action was engaged against the Government of Canada and the appropriate Church entities which operated the schools. Former students sought out compensation and redress for these ill-fated injustices committed in the Indian Residential Schools. After a number of supporting court decisions and the onslaught of a pending National Class Action Case, a negotiated out of court settlement was achieved by all parties involved. The Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement (IRSSA) will provide former students with individual financial compensation. More so, the IRSSA is set to impart Truth and Reconciliation and Commemoration as the world has seen with other colonial nations in the past.
Although, the most important and noticeable element absent from the Settlement Agreement is a sincere and unequivocal apology at the community, regional and national levels by Canada. In recent news, Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs has stated publicly that his government sees no reason why it should issue an apology to the former IRS students for the manner in which they were treated while attending these schools and that the governments motive was to provide these Indian children with an education. It would appear that the current Federal government of Canada refuses to accept the responsibility of the historic damage inflicted upon the children who had attended the Indian Residential Schools.
In order, to assert true reconciliation and redress within our communities, families and individuals the parties involved must predispose the foundations of these injustices. The impropriety of colonialisms imposition must be countered with a compassionate reparation and execute a genuine attempt to re-build trust and respect amongst the grassroots Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples of Canada. The beginning of this restoration must inhabit Canada and the Church entities’ unadulterated responsibility of educating mainstream Canada of this horrendous history.
To advance the veritable spirit and intent of Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement is to ensure a sincere sense of closure and reconciliation for all who had participated in these schools. This will require an elevated form of etiquette, ethical behaviours and spiritual intervention needed to provide the direction towards redemption and closure.
One of the central components of the Settlement Agreement is the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It is within this forum where truth and honesty were to be the prevailing forces that would serve as the catalyst for an environment conducive to beginning the processes of well-being and bona fide reconciliation of the Indigenous people and mainstream Canada.
Further, we value the knowledge that the times which have created our present day societies were without the identification and knowledge of equality as is today. The single minded move towards progression of a century ago did not act with the same laws and behaviours as does today. As we wish to progress the well-being of our families and communities we have relinquished the need for an apology. Intrinsically our spirituality has always encumbered and correlates with the genuine teachings of Jesus Christ which transcends cultures and predates the arrival of the Europeans. In saying this and in the spirit of our people and the integrity of our collective compassion it would be prudent to offer forgiveness from the Survivors of Indian Residential Schools to Canada, the Church entities and their descendants.
The act of forgiveness is based upon and anchored in a spiritual realm no matter the denomination of religion or culture. While an apology can serve as an opening for reconciliation, we believe that true forgiveness is the spiritual connection that will provide a lasting bond for former students, their families and communities within the context of Canada. To quote Alexander Pope, “to err is human but to forgive is divine”
We truly believe the demonstration of this sentiment would bequeath the Indigenous peoples of Canada with renewal of spirit and vigour and offer a substantial pillar in re-claiming dignity and the rectifying of this ugly chapter in Canada’s history. The spiritual, social, political and economical benefit to forwarding this noble endeavour is immeasurable and will commence and perpetuate a positive future for our children, grandchildren and the generations to follow.
Michael Cachagee, Chairperson NRSSS
National Residential School Survivors’ Society
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