Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Canadian Apology

Prime Minister Harper offers full apology on behalf of Canadians for the Indian Residential Schools system

June 11, 2008

Ottawa, Ontario

The treatment of children in Indian Residential Schools is a sad chapter in our history.

For more than a century, Indian Residential Schools separated over 150,000 Aboriginal children from their families and communities. In the 1870’s, the federal government, partly in order to meet its obligation to educate Aboriginal children, began to play a role in the development and administration of these schools. Two primary objectives of the Residential Schools system were to remove and isolate children from the influence of their homes, families, traditions and cultures, and to assimilate them into the dominant culture. These objectives were based on the assumption Aboriginal cultures and spiritual beliefs were inferior and unequal. Indeed, some sought, as it was infamously said, "to kill the Indian in the child". Today, we recognize that this policy of assimilation was wrong, has caused great harm, and has no place in our country.

One hundred and thirty-two federally-supported schools were located in every province and territory, except Newfoundland, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. Most schools were operated as "joint ventures" with Anglican, Catholic, Presbyterian or United Churches. The Government of Canada built an educational system in which very young children were often forcibly removed from their homes, often taken far from their communities. Many were inadequately fed, clothed and housed. All were deprived of the care and nurturing of their parents, grandparents and communities. First Nations, Inuit and Métis languages and cultural practices were prohibited in these schools. Tragically, some of these children died while attending residential schools and others never returned home.

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. While some former students have spoken positively about their experiences at residential schools, these stories are far overshadowed by tragic accounts of the emotional, physical and sexual abuse and neglect of helpless children, and their separation from powerless families and communities.

The legacy of Indian Residential Schools has contributed to social problems that continue to exist in many communities today.

It has taken extraordinary courage for the thousands of survivors that have come forward to speak publicly about the abuse they suffered. It is a testament to their resilience as individuals and to the strength of their cultures. Regrettably, many former students are not with us today and died never having received a full apology from the Government of Canada.

The government recognizes that the absence of an apology has been an impediment to healing and reconciliation. Therefore, on behalf of the Government of Canada and all Canadians, I stand before you, in this Chamber so central to our life as a country, to apologize to Aboriginal peoples for Canada’s role in the Indian Residential Schools system.

To the approximately 80,000 living former students, and all family members and communities, the Government of Canada now recognizes that it was wrong to forcibly remove children from their homes and we apologize for having done this. We now recognize that it was wrong to separate children from rich and vibrant cultures and traditions that it created a void in many lives and communities, and we apologize for having done this. 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, and we apologize for having done this. We now recognize that, far too often, these institutions gave rise to abuse or neglect and were inadequately controlled, and we apologize for failing to protect you. 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.

The burden of this experience has been on your shoulders for far too long. The burden is properly ours as a Government, and as a country. There is no place in Canada for the attitudes that inspired the Indian Residential Schools system to ever prevail again. 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. The Government of Canada sincerely apologizes and asks the forgiveness of the Aboriginal peoples of this country for failing them so profoundly.

Nous le regrettons
We are sorry

In moving towards healing, reconciliation and resolution of the sad legacy of Indian Residential Schools, implementation of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement began on September 19, 2007. Years of work by survivors, communities, and Aboriginal organizations culminated in an agreement that gives us a new beginning and an opportunity to move forward together in partnership.

A cornerstone of the Settlement Agreement is the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This Commission presents a unique opportunity to educate all Canadians on the Indian Residential Schools system. It will be a positive step in forging a new relationship between Aboriginal peoples and other Canadians, a relationship based on the knowledge of our shared history, a respect for each other and a desire to move forward together with a renewed understanding that strong families, strong communities and vibrant cultures and traditions will contribute to a stronger Canada for all of us.


In Canada a First Nation person might ask: What about the rest of the horrors that were inflicted? Words are empty without action to make amends - systemic racism is not being dealth with, it still flourishes.

Please Click to read the American Apology


Exploding the Myth of a productive England/First Nation Colonial Alliance of Equals

Mi'kmaq Elder, Dr. Daniel N. Paul, July 12, 2011

On many occasions, I’ve heard First Nation leaders refer to a sort of sacred alliance between the First Nations Peoples of North America and England’s Crown. In contradiction of such beliefs, on June 20, 2008, I received a copy of paper entitled “An Historic Non Apology, Completely and Utterly Not Accepted - The Maze of Rhetoric. It had insightful commentary about Harper’s weak apology, which highlights his lack of knowledge about First Nations. It included the following:

“The “settler” population of Canada has had, from the point of its inception, a qualitatively different relation with indigenous peoples than the remote colonial bureaucracy that preceded it: for England, the Indian Nations were allies (who, arguably, saved Canada on more than one occasion); for the newly-formed Dominion of Canada, they were impediments to expansion, like swamps and vermin. However, in the transfer of authority, the Dominion was honor-bound to respect them, their rights, and their historical status.”

If Harper had been educated about England/First Nations colonial relations, and completely honest about it, he would have stated that tens of thousands of First Nation Peoples were brutally slaughtered under the rule of English colonial governments. The mother country was well aware of the horrors that were being carried out in its name, and approved of it. Several Tribes, including the Beothuks of Newfoundland, were entirely wiped of the face of Mother Earth by them.

In fact, during the English reign of terror, germ warfare, scalp proclamations, and other terrorists tactics were used by them to try to cleanse the Continent of its Indigenous populations. In addition, many of the Indigenous Peoples of Eastern North America were sold into slavery.

The Mi’kmaq, the Indigenous people of Nova Scotia, were not exempted from English terror. In fact, the cruelty the British used to subjugate, and then degrade our People vividly demonstrates that their policy of ridding the province of the Mi’kmaq never deviated from 1713 to Canada's founding in 1867. However, as stated, their genocidal effort in Nova Scotia wasn't unusual; they used the same barbarism in subjugating other First Nations in all of their North American colonies. The records show that many high English officials were very imaginative in finding ways to achieve their evil goals.

The following is an excellent example of their racist mentality in action. In July 1763, General Jeffery Amherst, the Commander-in-Chief of British forces in North America, sent a memo to Colonel Henry Bouquet, a Huguenot in the service of England, asking:

"Could it not be contrived to send the Smallpox among the disaffected Tribes of Indians?"

Bouquet replied: "I will try to inoculate the Indians with some blankets that may fall into their hands, and take care not to get the disease myself."

Amherst answered: "You will do well to try to inoculate the Indians by means of blankets."

Amherst's contempt for the Indians is amply reflected in his journals and correspondence, though it may perhaps be doubted whether he was more bigoted than the average official of his Time!

An "execrable race" was the General Amherst's favourite description for the Amerindians; Colonel Bouquet's favourite was "the vilest of brutes." This racist language clearly reveals that White supremacist beliefs were prime factors in their desire to commit genocide. Lawrence Shaw Mayo states in his biography of Amherst:

As he sped on his way to the relief of Fort Pitt, the Colonel exchanged interesting suggestions with the General as to the most efficient manner of getting rid of the redskins. His first orders to Bouquet were that he wished "to hear of no prisoners should any of the villains be met with arms." Besides using smallpox the two gentlemen contemplated another method: "As it is a pity to expose good men against them, I wish we could make use of the Spanish method, to hunt them with English dogs." Amherst lamented that "the remoteness of merry England made the canine aid impracticable."

In conclusion, the English did form alliances with some First Nations. But, they were alliances of convenience, not with what they viewed as equals. The proof of the pudding is that when they created Canada in 1867, there was not one self-governing First Nation left in the country. Nor was any First Nation consulted when they enacted the new country’s constitution. The only mention of our Peoples in the British North America Act is contained in Section 91 - 24, which simply states that the federal government has responsibility for Indians and Indian lands.

Not even the Mohawks, who allied themselves with the English, were given any special consideration. They, as well as all the other First Nations in this country were left with small plots of territory, designated as Wards of the Crown, destitute, and permitted no self-government. What Canada did to First Nation Peoples after Confederation was just a carry-over of the racist policies and practices of England’s North American colonies.

If, in 1867, England had been a country that believed that First Nations were by all the laws of God and humanity entitled to self determination, today there would be a multitude of independent First Nation countries dotting this land - with vast territories and resources under their control. The proof that it wasn’t, is starkly portrayed by the poverty stricken dependent First Nations that now exist in Canada.

Let’s not look for allies where none exist, certainly not among the oppressor Nations. Let’s set goals for, at the very least, a semi-autonomous existence, with adequate land and resources to realize prosperity, and do everything legally possible to realize them. Don’t expect others to do right for us, especially those that took our independence away from us in the first place, we must realize our freedom and justice for ourselves!


NOTE: Condescending Paternalism has lessened under Harper's Conservative government, perhaps there is a new beginning in the works, only time will tell - Daniel N. Paul

Statement by the Prime Minister of Canada at the Crown-First Nations Gathering.

January 24, 2012, Ottawa, Ontario

Prime Minister Stephen Harper made the following remarks at the Crown-First Nations Gathering:

“Welcome, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is indeed a pleasure to welcome you on the traditional territory of the Algonquin, to this historic Crown-First Nations Gathering. And it is especially appropriate to do so in this building, a building whose name honours the memory of a prime minister who cared deeply about the things we are gathered here to talk about today: respect, rights and opportunity for First Nations Canadians.

“John George Diefenbaker was, in many ways, the initiator of the modern era of Crown – First Nations relations. It was he who named the first First Nations member to the Parliament of Canada, Senator James Gladstone in 1958. And, it was he who, two years later, extended to aboriginal Canadians living on reserves the right to vote in national elections.

“In addressing that long-standing and fundamental injustice, he was a man ahead of his time and in many ways, an apt inspiration for today’s proceedings.

“Greetings to all participating here in Ottawa and across the country: His Excellency, Governor General Johnston and Mrs. Johnston, Minister Duncan, Secretary Rickford, Senators and Members of Parliament from our Caucus. All distinguished guests, Elders, chiefs, including Chief Weasel Head, and Peter Standing Alone from my home nation, The Blood First Nation of Southern Alberta and, of course, National Chief Atleo.

“It is in no small part the vision and conception of the National Chief that has led to this gathering today, and I know we all congratulate him for that leadership.

“Ladies and gentlemen, friends, yesterday was the sixth anniversary of the general election in which Canadians first entrusted the stewardship of our country to our Government. These past six years have been a time of, putting it mildly, distractions of elections, of minority Parliaments, and, of course, world economic and financial crises.

“Nevertheless, our Government has worked hard to deal with matters of abiding concern to members of Canada’s First Nations. And I believe that, as a consequence of our work together thus far, we have exciting opportunities to strengthen our relationships.

“More than that, such will be the demand for labour in our future economy that we are positioned today to unlock the enormous economic potential of First Nations peoples, and to do so in a way that meets our mutual goals.

“Canada's growing and vibrant economy will require a skilled and growing labour force in every region: urban, rural and remote. Aboriginal peoples are Canada’s youngest population. It is therefore in all of our interests to see aboriginal people educated, skilled and employed.

“And there will be no better point in history to ensure that happens. In a moment, I will come back to that. First however, I must say this: every relationship has its ups and downs, moments of consensus and of disagreement. I believe it is important to build a narrative of any relationship based on its highest points. In the relationship of First Nations with Canada, there are some very high points.

"We have the Royal Proclamation of 1763, of which we will mark the 250th anniversary next year, a foundation of the Crown-First Nation relationship. We have, of course, all the historic treaties, large and small. We have the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, this year, in which aboriginal and non-aboriginal peoples joined under the Crown, ultimately laying the basis for a distinct country in the northern half of this continent. And, of course, all the wars since, in which aboriginal people have always fought alongside their fellow Canadians in the defence of freedom and democracy, here and around the world. There are great things on which to build.

“Nonetheless, we must acknowledge the not-so-uplifting moments, some very low points and the reality that, for generations, the relationship between our peoples was tainted, tainted in a manner that eroded trust and blocked ways forward as does a tree fallen across a road. Tainted in particular by the experience of the forced residential schools, the explicit attempt to destroy aboriginal culture and to dismantle the aboriginal family that wounded so many so deeply.

“That is why one of my most rewarding days in office was when I rose in the House to deliver an apology to those students. We acknowledged that sad chapter in our history. We repudiated the thinking that lay behind it. And, we went beyond symbolism; we took concrete action to settle the claims of those who had been injured.

“That ladies and gentlemen, concrete action, has been our election promise to First Nations people in 2004, in 2006, in 2008 and in 2011. And to those commitments, we have been faithful. For example, Our Government has addressed historic grievances by accelerating the settlement of both comprehensive and specific claims. In concert with The Assembly of First Nations, our historic new process has allowed more than 65 specific claims, previously held up for decades, to be dealt with thus far.

“We have extended the full protection of the Canadian Human Rights Act to First Nations Canadians living on reserves. We seek to promote the full participation of First Nations in Canada’s political and economic life, with all its rights and responsibilities. And we are dealing with things that have been in the talk-shop for 20 years, in some cases longer than that.

“We are, for instance, about to ensure that the property of First Nations women and children are protected when relationships end. We have tabled bills to strengthen First Nations governance with 21st century rules on elections and transparency. Many First Nations people will say it’s about time. We routed more than a billion dollars of Economic Action Plan funding to investments for Aboriginal and northern communities, using one-time stimulus money to accelerate the building of new homes, and water and waste water systems to improve living conditions. And soon, we shall secure water-system accountability through legislated standards.

“In the name of self-government, we have devolved land and resources from Ottawa to Inuvialuit. To protect children, we have brokered six child and family services harm-prevention agreements between Ottawa, First Nations and provincial governments. And, of course, we endorsed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. This reaffirms our aspiration and our determination to promote and protect the rights of indigenous people at home and abroad.

“These things we have done, Ladies and Gentlemen, as a down payment on what we wish to achieve. For our goal is self sufficient citizens and self-governing communities. Our goal is to promote improved governance. Our goal is much increased aboriginal participation in the economy and in the country’s prosperity. And we have no illusion about the enormous work that lies ahead of us.

“Our Government’s actions and accomplishments during the last six years speak to our sense of urgency. But, I can tell you this: we have only just begun. In terms of participation, standard of living and quality of life, the time has come for First Nations to fully share with other Canadians from all walks of life with equal opportunity to find the dignity of gainful employment and more than that, the ability to raise a family in the security that comes with it.

“This is our goal as the Government, for all Canadians. And where it is not working for First Nations, we must act, act aggressively and act together. That brings me to the “Canada-First Nation Joint Action Plan,” agreed last year between the Government of Canada, and the Assembly of First Nations. This is a timely understanding, based upon common goals and shared principles, principles such as respect and transparency. Goals like the empowerment of individuals, strong, sustainable communities and economic development.

“I call it timely, because there has never been a better moment to build on what we have achieved, to move forward, to reset the relationship, to learn from the past, but to focus on the future. The Joint Action Plan points the way ahead, through specific joint commitments, commitments that will effectively change the rules in education, accountability, economic development and treaty relationships.

“Why would we wish to change the rules? Because “from the rules you set, come the results you get.” And the incentives buried in the Indian Act self-evidently lead to outcomes that we all deplore.

“To be sure, our Government has no grand scheme to repeal or to unilaterally re-write the Indian Act: After 136 years, that tree has deep roots, blowing up the stump would just leave a big hole. However, there are ways, creative ways, collaborative ways, ways that involve consultation between our Government, the provinces, and First Nations leadership and communities, ways that provide options within the Act, or outside of it, for practical, incremental and real change.

“So that will be our approach, to replace elements of the Indian Act with more modern legislation and procedures, in partnership with provinces and First Nations. It is an approach that has already shown promise. With inspired leadership, energy and enterprise, some bands have already shown that First Nations people are as quick to prosper, as capable of excellence and as able to enjoy all that Canada’s vibrant economy has to offer them.

“I think if B.C.’s Haisla First Nation, partners in the massive Kitimat LNG project that will deliver training, employment and rich economic and social benefits to the community for decades to come. Or in Newfoundland and Labrador, the Miawpukek First Nation which has developed a unique job creation program for unemployed community members, operating in surplus despite having revenue sources of their own.

“Or in Quebec, the Essipit First Nation has developed its tourism and commercial fishery industries, thereby creating local jobs and partnerships with both the private sector and neighbouring municipalities.

“I do believe that so much more is possible than what we presently imagine or conceive. However, none of us, not governments, not First Nations communities, not aboriginal individuals, can accomplish these things alone or without the others.

“In past conversations, we have talked about symbolism and respect and trust. Certainly, in the past, lack of trust on both sides has held us back. But this is a new day. New generations are arising, generations that seek a common vision, that have common goals. And, the greatest respect that we can show to First Nations men and women is to provide them with the tools, to credit them with the capacity and then allow them to move forward. We all need to move forward.

“So let us be willing partners. Let us use this opportunity to renew the conversation. I look forward to your deliberations. Thank you, Friends.”