Final report on residential schools signals time for gov't to act

OTTAWA -- A teary Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is vowing his government will go beyond the 94 "calls to action" cited in the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission into Canada's residential schools system.

See Full Article

The commission formally wrapped up its six-year-plus odyssey Tuesday with another emotional ceremony in Ottawa, this time to deliver the complete, seven-volume, 3,766-page report that supports the three-member commission's recommendations.

"We need nothing less than a total renewal of the relationship between Canada and indigenous peoples," Trudeau told a packed convention hall in downtown Ottawa.

"I give you my word that we will renew and respect that relationship."

Trudeau, whose Liberals came to office in October, was pointedly reminded before speaking that he was about to become the first prime minister to formally address the commission, which was born out of a 2007 class-action judgment won by residential school survivors.

Commissioner Marie Wilson noted that all other parties to the court-ordered agreement responded formally last June to the commission's preliminary findings, but not the Conservative government.

Conservatives remained skeptical Tuesday. Indigenous affairs critic Cathy McLeod called the Liberals "irresponsible" for acceding to all 94 of the TRC's recommendations "with no detailed impact analysis or comprehensive costing."

But Wilson pointed out "just how capable of responding" Canadians are, using the example of Syrian refugees over the past number of weeks, adding she hopes Canadians "will look close to home in considering what we deem to be urgent."

For a prime minister with a very full plate facing Canada's longest-running policy debacle -- an assimilationist education model that pre-dates Confederation, characterized by the commission as "cultural genocide" -- Trudeau waded into the fray with a soft-spoken speech that was part lament, part apology and part promise.

The goal of government actions, he said, "is to lift this burden from your shoulders, from those of your families and communities. It is to accept fully our responsibilities and our failings as a government and as a country."

His father, Pierre Trudeau, also attempted to tackle the long-festering relationship between the Crown and First Nations in his first term as prime minister.

The 1969 federal government white paper on "Indian policy" proposed to abolish the 1867 Indian Act and remove the distinct legal status of indigenous peoples, including treaty rights, in an effort to end what it called a discriminatory relationship. The elder Trudeau abandoned the policy in 1970 after a massive outcry from First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples.

More recently, the 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples expressed many of the same themes and concerns as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, complete with recommendations for action.

The final TRC report dryly notes the 1996 study was largely ignored; "a majority of its recommendations were never implemented."

But Trudeau the younger said his government's work has already begun with the start of on an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women, prompting one of the four standing ovations he earned.

He also said the government will begin following up on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, another bone of contention with the previous government.

Trudeau announced he's creating a multi-stakeholder "national engagement strategy for developing and implementing a national reconciliation framework," which will respond to the commission's many calls for change.

"We will remember always that reconciliation is not an indigenous issue," said the prime minister. "It is a Canadian issue."

But the story of Canada's residential schools, commission head Justice Murray Sinclair told the gathering, is really the story of the resilience of children.

"It is a story about surviving."

As part of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, more than 80,000 survivors of residential schools were awarded compensation from a $2 billion fund, as well as receiving a full report from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission it spawned.

Some of those survivors were in the hall Tuesday, and a trio spoke of the commission's work.

Eugene Arcand, who spent 15 years in residential schools, said he was among those chosen to serve as advisers to the commission, but ended up in another role.

"It gave us a chance ... a chance to become children again," said Arcand, choking up. "We shared our tears, we shared our laughs, but we dug deep inside and we dug out the demons."

Madeleine Basile was sent to a residential school in Quebec at age six after her father died, only to have her 11-year-old sister die at the school.

"Today I can hear my heart beating," said Basile. "I am alive, megwich, I am alive."

Sinclair said the commission's findings make clear that the myriad problems of aboriginal communities are rooted, directly or indirectly, in years of government efforts to "assimilate, acculturate, indoctrinate and destroy."

"When it comes to engineering the lives of indigenous people in this country, governments have shown a disdainful mistrust of indigenous capacity and a breezy belief in their own," he said.

Sinclair also thanked his family, saying they fretted about his health as he worked gruelling hours with the commission.

"In the area of my own health and well-being, I am a reckless fool."



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Feds investing nearly $200M in Mississauga, Ont. plant to mass produce vaccines

    Canada News CTV News
    OTTAWA -- The federal government will invest almost $200 million in Mississauga, Ont.-based Resilience Biotechnologies to eventually be able to mass produce vaccines domestically. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the announcement on Tuesday, stating that the money will go toward creating and maintaining 500 jobs and 50 co-op positions for young people “to get their foot in the door in a growing sector. Source
  • 'Sheerness when wet': Joe Fresh recalls boys, toddler swim shorts out of 'abundance of caution'

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- Loblaws' Joe Fresh clothing brand is voluntarily recalling swim shorts for boys and toddlers over concerns about the sheerness of the trunks’ fabric when wet. Joe Fresh said in a recall notice posted online that there are no safety concerns with the products. Source
  • Ikea recalls select dishes due to risk of breakage and burns

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- Ikea Canada has issued a recall for select dishes after the company received reports of some of these products breaking, leading to a possible burn risk. In a notice issued on Tuesday, Ikea Canada said it was recalling the Heroisk and Talrika style plates, bowls, and mugs "due to the potential risk of burns from hot contents upon breakage. Source
  • Container ship is the largest of its kind to visit Canada: Halifax Port Authority

    Canada News CTV News
    HALIFAX -- Port officials in Halifax say the largest container ship to visit a Canadian port has arrived at the city's south-end container terminal. A spokesman for the Port of Halifax says the CMA CGM Marco Polo is 396 metres long and can carry the equivalent of 16,022 containers that are each 20-feet long. Source
  • Investing in new coal, oil and gas projects must stop to hit climate goals, global energy agency says

    World News CBC News
    A report by the International Energy Agency says immediate action is needed to reshape the world's energy sector in order to meet ambitious climate goals by 2050, including ending investments in new coal mines, oil and gas wells. Source
  • Quebec reports 549 new COVID-19 cases, 9 more deaths

    Canada News CTV News
    MONTREAL -- Quebec has 549 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of people infected to 364,396 since the start of the pandemic. The province's health officials also confirmed nine more deaths, a total of 11,050 after it was ruled one death was not related to COVID-19. Source
  • Israel resumes airstrikes on Gaza, as Palestinian militants fire more rockets into Israel

    World News CBC News
    Israel bombarded Gaza with airstrikes and Palestinian militants resumed cross-border rocket fire on Tuesday after a brief overnight lull during which the United Nations sent a small fuel convoy into the enclave, where it says 52,000 people are now displaced. Source
  • Canada marks 25,000 COVID-19 deaths

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- Canada has marked 25,000 COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic started. The country reached the grim milestone on Tuesday, after Ontario reported an additional 17 deaths related to the disease. Many younger Canadians succumbed to the disease in recent months, as the third COVID-19 wave overwhelmed hospitals, especially in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. Source
  • Ontario reports lowest number of COVID-19 cases in nearly two months with fewer than 1,700 infections logged

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- Health officials in Ontario are reporting fewer than 1,700 new cases of COVID-19, marking the lowest single-day total in almost two months. The 1,616 infections recorded Tuesday represent a significant drop from the 2,170 reported by the province a day earlier. Source
  • Experts warn shuttered Australia is becoming a 'hermit nation'

    World News CTV News
    SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA -- Prime Minister Scott Morrison defended his "Fortress Australia" COVID-19 restrictions Tuesday, as experts warned that plans to keep the borders closed for another year will create a "hermit nation." "Everyone is keen to get back to a time that we once knew," the conservative leader said in the face of growing calls for international borders to reopen. Source