Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper made an official government apology on Wednesday to native Canadians for the country’s past practice of taking Aboriginal children from their families and forcing them to attend state-funded schools meant to assimilate them.
The children were often physically and sexually abused there.
Harper, speaking in parliament, said it was a sad chapter in the country’s history.
“Today, we recognize that this policy of assimilation was wrong, has caused great harm and has no place in our country,” he said, as 11 Aboriginal leaders looked on just meters away.
His address in the House of Commons was broadcast live nationwide.
The apology comes just months after Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made a similar gesture to the so-called Stolen Generations — thousands of the continent’s Aborigines who were forcibly taken from their families as children under assimilation policies that lasted from 1910 to 1970.
In Canada, more than 150,000 Aboriginal children were required to attend state-funded Christian schools from the 19th century until the 1970s as part of a program to assimilate them into Canadian society.
“The government of Canada now recognizes that it was wrong to forcibly remove children from their homes and we apologize,” Harper said. “We now recognize that it was wrong to separate children from rich and vibrant cultures and traditions and that it created a void in many lives and communities and we apologize.”
Many suffered physical and sexual abuse.
“These institutions gave rise to abuse or neglect and were inadequately controlled and we apologize for failing to protect you,” Harper said.
Hundreds of former students were invited to Ottawa to witness what native leaders call a pivotal moment for Canada’s more than 1 million Aborigines, who today remain the country’s poorest and most disadvantaged group.
There are more than 80,000 surviving students of the schools.
Many students died of tuberculosis and other diseases at the poorly kept facilities.
In addition to the 11 Aboriginal leaders in attendance on Wednesday, the oldest school survivor, 104-year-old Marguerite Wabano, was on the floor of the House of Commons. Hundreds of Aboriginals watched from the public gallery and from the front lawn of parliament.
“Finally, we heard Canada say it is sorry,” Phil Fontaine, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said from the floor.
Fontaine wore a traditional native headdress and he and other native leaders were allowed to speak from the floor after opposition parties demanded it.
“Never again will this House consider us an Indian problem for just being who we are,” Fontaine said. “We heard the government of Canada take full responsibility.”
Fontaine said the apology will go a long way toward repairing the relationship between Aborigines and the rest of Canada.
Former Canadian prime minister Paul Martin and Chief Supreme Court Justice Beverley McLachlin watched.
Harper showed little emotion. Opposition leaders got louder ovations for their speeches from the crowd outside.
Willie Blackwater, who was repeatedly raped and beaten by a dormitory supervisor at a residential school when he was nine years old, called the apology a pivotal moment in his life.
“I think this is a start of a long healing relationship,” Blackwater said. “It is quite a pivotal moment for us and for me. It will be totally awesome to go beyond this. Now I can focus a lot more on helping others.”
Michael Cachagee, president of the National Residential School Survivors’ Society, said it was a sincere apology.
Cachagee was four years old when he was taken from his parents. He spent 12-and-a-half years at three different schools in Canada beginning in 1944 and was sexually and physically abused.
“I feel really good. I was a bit troubled and concerned, but what really made my day was looking up from the floor and seeing all those brown faces up there,” said Cachagee, who had a seat at the ceremony. “It was a good day for Canada.”
In addition to the apology, a truth and reconciliation commission will take testimony from survivors.
Since her personal telephone number was posted online, Hong Kong democracy advocate and Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions chairperson Carol Ng has received menacing calls from strangers and been bombarded with messages calling her a “cockroach.” She is not alone. A sophisticated and shady Web site called HK Leaks has ramped up its “doxxing” — where people’s personal details are published online — of Hong Kong democracy advocates, targeting those it says have broken Hong Kong’s National Security Law. Promoted by groups linked to the Chinese Chinese Communist Party and hosted on Russia-based servers, HK Leaks has become the most prominent “doxxing”
‘CONFESSED’: A court in Beijing said that former CCP member Ren Zhiqiang abused his power at a state firm and embezzled almost US$7.14 million of public funds A Chinese tycoon who called Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) a clown and criticized his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was yesterday jailed for 18 years for corruption, bribery and embezzlement of public funds. Ren Zhiqiang (任志強) — once among the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) inner circle — disappeared from the public eye in March, shortly after penning an essay that lambasted Xi’s pandemic response. His outspokenness had earned the former chairman of state-owned property developer Huayuan Group the nickname “Big Cannon.” Yesterday’s verdict said that Ren embezzled almost 50 million yuan (US$7.4 million) of public funds and accepted bribes worth 1.25 million
AUSTRALIAN SITE: China has had a contract with SSC’s Yatharagga station since at least 2011, but the last time it used it was in June 2013. No final date has been given China would lose access to a strategic space tracking station in Western Australia when its contract expires, the facility’s owners said, a decision that cuts into Beijing’s expanding space exploration and navigational capabilities in the Pacific region. The Swedish Space Corp (SSC) has had a contract allowing Beijing access to the satellite antenna at the station since at least 2011. The station is located next to an SSC satellite station primarily used by the US and its agencies, including NASA. The Swedish state-owned company said it would not enter into any new contracts at the Australian site to support Chinese customers after
Australia is notorious for its venomous spiders, snakes and sea creatures, but researchers have now identified “scorpion-like” toxins secreted by a tree that can cause excruciating pain for weeks. Split-second contact with the dendrocnide tree, a rainforest nettle known by its Aboriginal name gympie-gympie, delivers a sting far more potent than similar plants found in the US or Europe. A team of Australian scientists said that they now better understand why the gympie-gympie’s sting haunts those unlucky enough to brush up against its leaves. Victims report an initial sting that “feels like fire at first, then subsides over hours to a pain reminiscent