Hey there, time traveller! This article was published 3/6/2015 (2003 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA -- Prime Minister Stephen Harper indicated Tuesday the government is unlikely to respond to the recommendations made Tuesday by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, at least until after the next federal election.
The TRC released an executive summary of its final report Tuesday detailing the atrocities committed to thousands of aboriginal children over 150 years of residential schools in Canada, including rampant physical and sexual abuse.
Commission head Justice Murray Sinclair said the policies of Canada with the residential schools were "a systematic and concerted attempt to extinguish the spirit of aboriginal peoples."
"Today I stand before you and acknowledge that what took place in residential schools amounts to nothing short of cultural genocide," said Sinclair.
Murray and the two co-commissioners of the TRC together made 94 recommendations to help reconcile the relationship between Canada and aboriginal people. There was a heavy focus on implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as well as educating everyone in Canada, from kindergarten through to graduate schools of medicine, law, journalism and nursing, the business community and religious leaders, about the history of aboriginal people and the legacy of residential schools.
Government policies to end the high number of aboriginal kids in care and aboriginal men and women in the justice system, to eliminate the education gaps between aboriginal and non-aboriginal kids and to improve the health outcomes and prosperity of aboriginal peoples were requested, along with plans to release annual reports tracking the work and the results.
The commissioners called for a visit to Canada by the Pope within a year to apologize for the church's role in the residential schools, which were run by the churches for the government.
And they want an inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women.
Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt was the only government representative to appear at the TRC event, and he said Canada "would like to reaffirm its commitment to advance reconciliation with aboriginal people on the issue of residential schools."
"Reconciliation is not to forgive and forget but to remember and change," said Valcourt.
He said to prove its commitment, the government is going to provide funding for programs that help educate Canadians about residential schools and for the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation that will be located at the University of Manitoba.
Later, his department confirmed that commitment was $750,000 for Reconciliation Canada, $250,000 for the Legacy of Hope Foundation and $1 million for the national centre, all in this fiscal year.
The TRC had asked for $10 million over seven years for the centre, which will house the archived statements and documents collected by the TRC.
Beyond that, it seems the government won't be following up on any specific recommendations for the time being.
"We are still awaiting the full report," Harper said in the House of Commons. "The government will examine all of these (recommendations) and, obviously, read them before deciding what the appropriate next steps are."
The full report, which will be six volumes in total, is not going to be ready until mid to late fall. The election is scheduled for Oct. 19.
Harper also would not use the term "cultural genocide" to describe the residential-school policy, although a growing number of leaders are doing just that, including Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin, former prime minister Paul Martin, Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger and federal NDP Leader Tom Mulcair.
Harper called it "forced assimilation."
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Sinclair did not make a recommendation for the government to officially label the residential schools as a genocide. He said Tuesday it was simply a finding of fact and therefore it didn't need to be a recommendation.
Sinclair was also clear throughout the day he doesn't expect much from the government, and he clearly is not happy with the government's actions since the 2008 apology.
He was highly critical of Canada for being the only government that "shamefully" objected last fall when the UN wanted to reaffirm the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. He also said Tuesday morning he doesn't believe the current government "is willing to make good on its claim" it wants to reconcile with aboriginal people.
When asked what he expected the government to do given its recent actions and words, Sinclair said, "You have to remember, we are writing for the future not just for this government," he said, drawing applause from the crowd.
Harper did not attend the events of the TRC thus far but is scheduled to participate in the closing ceremony at Rideau Hall today.
What they said
“When I used to teach and brought (residential schools) up, it was, ‘Couldn’t have happened.’ Complete denial. And that was less than two decades ago... We have a solemn obligation to go back on that journey of reconciliation and provide leadership from our side... to make sure this kind of denial of people’s rights and dignity never happens again.”
— Premier Greg Selinger
“It’s going to take more than just this moment in history. It’s going to take a concerted effort by everybody. Everybody has to step up. And when we talk about reconciliation, we have to recognize that each and every one of us has a reconciliation to make.”
— Grand Chief Derek Nepinak
“But most of all, thank you — and thank you doesn’t seem like quite enough — but thank you to the survivors for your incredible bravery and courage. Your stories are ours to share, and I cannot imagine the darkness many of you had to revisit to openly share your experiences so we can all learn. Please know how invaluable your courage has been to our children, our grandchildren and our nation’s future.”
— Mayor Brian Bowman
“We can’t burden our young people with that history without also giving them hope. They have to know that history, but we also have to give them a sense of hope.”
— Manitoba Treaty Commissioner James Wilson
“As a child, you’re supposed to be with your family. That disrupted my life forever... We still live with that residential school memory.”