Yesterday Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a formal apology to the Inuit and Innu people of Newfoundland and Labrador. The apology was for the government’s role in removing generations of Inuit and Innu children from their homes during the early and mid 20th Century and sending them to residential schools under the guise of providing education that would better prepare them for life.
Instead those children were physically, mentally, and sexually abused; made to be ashamed of their culture; and more often than not, were never returned to their families. Across Canada, 150,000 Indigenous children were taken away to residential schools. Six thousand of them died in the hands of the Canadian government.
The legacy of residential schools has left a permanent scar on the survivors of those schools and their families. It has also resulted in intergenerational trauma and loss of many facets of Inuit culture.
People who have not been subject to systemic government-sanctioned racism, abuse, and neglect often question why a government should apologize for something that happened decades ago. The refrain goes something like, “Times were different. We didn’t know then, what we know now. We weren’t even born yet. We aren’t responsible.”
Wrong. We are all responsible.
So today’s #150Acts is to help you understand why formal apologies are necessary.
First I want you to read this story — the whole thing, all the way to the end.
When Sorry Isn’t Enough
Toby Obed has fought for a decade to get to this moment — a formal apology from the prime minister for what residential school survivors in Newfoundland and Labrador went through.
The apology is part of a $50-million class-action settlement agreement between Ottawa and residential school survivors in N.L. But now that he is poised to share a stage with Justin Trudeau in Happy Valley-Goose Bay on Friday, Obed isn’t sure he will be able to accept it.
Read the rest: When Sorry Isn’t Enough
Now watch Prime Minister Justin Trudeau give the apology.
(And I apologize for the ads. Can’t find ad-free versions of these clips.)
And now watch Toby Obed, speaking on behalf of the Inuit.
A day of many emotions for Toby Obed in #GooseBay #Labrador pic.twitter.com/315kEFHHSn
— Adam Scotti 🇨🇦📷 (@AdamScotti) November 24, 2017
And finally, the response from the Innu community, whose leaders boycotted the event.
“The response from members of our community has been quite emotional, it is clear that Innu need apologies for more than the experience in the International Grenfell Association run residential school dormitories,” Grand Chief Gregory Rich said in the statement. “I’m not satisfied that Canada understands yet what it has done to Innu and what it is still doing.”
Read more HERE.
So there is still work to be done.
Thank you for this article Kim! I associated Australia with this type of racism, and until I read this article I was unaware that Canada was also culpable. Kindly let me know if I can share this on my social media (facebook) platform.
Thank you Sunitha. My sense is that every country that has been colonized by Europeans (or by anyone I suppose) has been guilty of this kind of cultural genocide. Yes, you may certainly share this. The more people who know about it, the better.
Yes. Apologies are really only one tiny part of the larger conversation we need to have. Consider this: many of us live in homes built on unceded lands. Those of us with good jobs, good schools and clean water live better than most of the people who lived on this land long before us. A sustainable life that held deep connections to the natural world.
Our easy life is at the expense of generations of human beings put in intolerable situations with tragic, long-term consequences. Wilful blindness on our part. And what have we done with that land? We remain a settler population on Indigenous territories. It will be long process to understand this fractured relationship between original peoples and the rest of us.
And yet, there remains optimism and a belief we can somehow “get it.” Sarain Fox described it beautifully: two peoples on a river, travelling side by side, one in a canoe and the other in entirely different boat — different but heading in the same direction, on the same river. With a true desire to recognize that our today is built on all those yesterdays, we could travel together in truth and reconciliation.
Thank you Ruth. Good thoughts, well said. As always.