On June 11, 2008 Prime Minister Stephen Harper delivered the long-awaited apology for residential schools run by the federal government, with survivors and other Indigenous delegates in attendance. It was a rare and truly heartfelt moment in the House of Commons.
“On behalf of the Government of Canada and all Canadians, I stand before you, in this Chamber so central to our life as a country, to apologize to Aboriginal peoples for Canada's role in the Indian Residential Schools system,” the prime minister said.
“To the approximately 80,000 living former students, and all family members and communities, the Government of Canada now recognizes that it was wrong to forcibly remove children from their homes and we apologize for having done this. We now recognize that it was wrong to separate children from rich and vibrant cultures and traditions that it created a void in many lives and communities, and we apologize for having done this. We now recognize that, in separating children from their families, we undermined the ability of many to adequately parent their own children and sowed the seeds for generations to follow, and we apologize for having done this. We now recognize that, far too often, these institutions gave rise to abuse or neglect and were inadequately controlled, and we apologize for failing to protect you. Not only did you suffer these abuses as children, but as you became parents, you were powerless to protect your own children from suffering the same experience, and for this we are sorry.”
The apology came about after a Liberal MP, Gary Merasty, put forward a motion calling for the House of Commons to apologize to residential school survivors and after late NDP leader Jack Layton put pressure on the government to issue the apology sooner rather than later.
Read the apology here.