Thursday, June 12, 2008

Canada Apologizes

From the Globe and Mail:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper had yet to utter a single word of Canada’s apology to former Indian residential schools students when the cheering began. Native drumming and shouts turned into loud, simultaneous clapping. Raw emotion bursting for an apology decades overdue. There were many smiles.

For the sexual and physical abuse that occurred at the schools, Canada apologized. For the efforts to wipe out aboriginal languages and culture in the name of assimilation, Mr. Harper expressed remorse.

But aboriginal eyes in the now quiet House of Commons room began to tear when the Prime Minister acknowledged the ongoing, generational impacts of residential schools.

“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,” he said. “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.”

Known as the generational effect of the schools, it is the lesser-told story. Many children who never set foot in one have grown up with parents who never learned that children need hugs. Some grew up with parents and relatives who learned the ways of abuse at the schools.

“You have been working on recovering from this experience for a long time and in a very real sense, we are now joining you on this journey,” Mr. Harper concluded. “The government of Canada sincerely apologizes and asks the forgiveness of aboriginal peoples for failing them so badly.”

Unlike Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in his apology to aboriginals in February, Mr. Harper made no promises to improve aboriginal social conditions.

I leave it to those who suffered to be the ones to say whether or not this is the beginning rather than the end of this story.