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a new day has dawned

by Mary Simon | June 12, 2008

On June 11, 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the leaders of Canada’s opposition parties apologized to former students of Indian residential schools. Breaking from “usual practices” in the House of Commons, all parties unanimously consented to having representatives of the communities affected by the government’s residential school policy make statements in response to the ministerial statement of apology to former students of Indian residential schools.

The first residential schools were opened when Canada was still a colony in the 19th century. Once the country gained independence, these schools were under the control of the Department of Indian Affairs. Native children had to attend. The last school closed in 1996 – the same year that the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples issued its final, damning, report.

The following is the Hansard text of what was said by Mary Simon, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, on the historic day.

Mr. Prime Minister:

[Ms. Simon spoke in Inuktitut]

[English]

Mr. Prime Minister, I spoke first in my Inuit language because I wanted to illustrate to you that our language and culture are still strong.

I have to face you to say this, Mr. Prime Minister, because it comes from the bottom of my heart. It took great courage for you to express your sorrow and apology to our people, the Inuit, to first nations, and to Métis, and we thank you very much for it.

[Ms. Simon spoke in Inuktitut]

[English]

I am one of those people who have dreamed for this day. There have been times in this long journey when I despaired that this would ever happen.

However, after listening to the Prime Minister and the leaders of the political parties, I am filled with hope and compassion for my fellow aboriginal Canadians as I stand among them here with you and your fellow ministers today, Mr. Prime Minister.

I am also filled with optimism that this action by the Government of Canada and the generosity in the words chosen to convey this apology will help all of us mark the end of this dark period in our collective history as a nation.

Let us not be lulled into an impression that when the sun rises tomorrow morning, the pain and scars will miraculously be gone. They will not.

But a new day has dawned, a new day heralded by a commitment to reconciliation and building a new relationship with Inuit, Métis and first nations.

Let us now join forces with the common goal of working together to ensure that this apology opens the door to a new chapter in our lives as aboriginal peoples and in our place in Canada.

There is much hard work to be done. We need the help and support of all thoughtful Canadians and our governments to rebuild strong and healthy families and communities.

This can be achieved only when dignity, confidence and respect for traditional values and human rights once again become part of our daily lives and are mirrored in our relationships with governments and other Canadians.

I stand here today ready to work with you, as Inuit have always done, to craft new solutions and new arrangements based on mutual respect and mutual responsibility.

Thank you. May wisdom and compassion guide our efforts.

statements in the House of Commons | June 11, 2008

posted on section15.ca

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