Prime Minister Harper's Apology

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As part of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established. Before its work got under way, Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a public apology on June 11, 2008, on behalf of the Canadian government. The apology is part of the process arranged by the government and the First Nations as parties to the agreement, part of an overall attempt to address the government’s role in the history of the Indian Residential Schools. The apology, delivered in a special joint session of the House of Commons and the Senate, included the following:

Mr. Speaker, I stand before you today to offer an apology to former students of Indian residential schools. The treatment of children in Indian residential schools is a sad chapter in our history. . . . Today, we recognize that this policy of assimilation was wrong, has caused great harm, and has no place in our country. . . .

The government now recognizes that the consequences of the Indian residential schools policy were profoundly negative and that this policy has had a lasting and damaging impact on aboriginal culture, heritage and language.

Prime Minister Harper’s apology was, by and large, well received by the representatives of the First Nations, Métis, and Inuit who attended the joint session. But sadly, the following year, at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Harper expressed sentiments that many felt contradicted the content of the apology and cast doubts on its sincerity. He stated:

We’re so self-effacing as Canadians that we sometimes forget the assets we do have that other people see. . . . We are one of the most stable regimes in history. . . . We also have no history of colonialism. So we have all of the things that many people admire about the great powers but none of the things that threaten or bother.1

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