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

  • Watchdog report on RCMP's investigation of Colten Boushie shooting due next month

    Canada News CBC News
    The results of an independent probe into how the Saskatchewan RCMP handled its investigation of the Colten Boushie shooting is finally poised for release next month, after a three-year wait. Boushie, 22, was shot and killed after he and four others from the Red Pheasant Cree Nation drove onto Stanley's farm near Biggar, Sask. Source
  • Armenian PM faces military's demand to resign, talks of coup

    World News CTV News
    YEREVAN, ARMENIA -- Armenia's prime minister spoke of an attempted military coup Thursday after the military's General Staff demanded that he step down after months of protests sparked by the nation's defeat in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with Azerbaijan. Source
  • German charged with espionage for allegedly passing parliament floor plans to Russia

    World News CTV News
    BERLIN -- A German man has been charged with espionage for allegedly passing information on properties used by the German parliament to Russian military intelligence, prosecutors said Thursday. The suspect, identified only as Jens F. Source
  • China denies subjecting U.S. diplomats to COVID-19 anal tests

    World News CTV News
    BEIJING -- China on Thursday denied subjecting U.S. diplomats to COVID-19 anal tests following reports from Washington that some of its personnel were being made to undergo the procedure. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters at a daily briefing that "China has never asked U.S. Source
  • So you got your COVID-19 shot. Does that mean life goes back to normal?

    Canada News CBC News
    After Toronto family physician Dr. Tali Bogler received her final dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in January, she felt a newfound sense of relief — but also knew her daily life wasn't going to suddenly change. On an afternoon in late February, while still dressed in her bright blue hospital scrubs after a shift, she was cuddling one of her twin daughters while catching up with her parents on a video chat. Source
  • In the shadow of her killer's verdict, Cindy Gladue's family wants to reclaim her humanity

    Canada News CBC News
    Donna McLeod held her great-grandson Dayton by a firepit crackling flames in an Edmonton backyardlast week and spoke about a dream she longed to have about Cindy Gladue, now gone for 10 years. Gladue, McLeod's oldest daughter, was found dead in 2011 in an Edmonton hotel room that has since changed its name. Source
  • 'It's not their fault': Nunavut students who act violently let down by lack of counselling, educators say

    Canada News CBC News
    This is Part 2 of a three-part series on violence in Nunavut's schools. CBC InvestigatesNunavut schools had 1,000 violent incidents last year, CBC investigation reveals Source
  • Playstations scarce, automakers stalled amid semiconductor shortage brought on by pandemic

    Canada News CBC News
    Max Nekrasov, 15, is relentless in his repeated search for a sought-after treasure that's been elusive during the COVID-19 pandemic: The Playstation 5. The Toronto teen runs a Twitter account with more than 19,000 followers that flags whenever a retailer restocks the popular video game console. Source
  • What experts say Canada needs to do to become a leader in the electric vehicle industry

    Canada News CBC News
    This week's meeting between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Joe Biden was a signal of momentum for electric vehicles that those in Canada's industry have been waiting for. In the roadmap released following the meeting, both leaders promised to work together to build supply chains for electric vehicle (EV) battery development so Canada and the U.S. Source
  • Quebec under fire for failing to accommodate seniors unable to leave home for vaccinations

    Canada News CBC News
    Twenty five years ago, Judith Cowling was told she had two years to live when she was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer. Now 81, Cowling is in palliative care at home in Westmount, a suburb west of downtown Montreal, home after having exhausted treatment options that, for all those years, helped her battle what she calls a "clever disease. Source