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Decade-Old Canadian Apology Translated into Indigenous Languages

CBC News (Canada) (06/11/18) Harris, Kathleen

A decade after it was delivered on the floor of the House of Commons, the Canadian government’s formal apology to survivors of the country’s early residential school system has been translated into seven indigenous languages.

The apology, made by then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper on June 10, 2008, was meant to help atone for the damage residential schools had inflicted upon the indigenous population by forcing native children to assimilate into mainstream culture. “The government of Canada sincerely apologizes and asks the forgiveness of the Aboriginal peoples of this country for failing them so profoundly. We are sorry,” Harper declared.

More than 139 residential schools operated in Canada between the 1800s and 1996, when the last one closed. More than 150,000 Indigenous children—First Nations, Inuit, and Métis—attended these schools. Many of those students were subjected to physical and sexual abuse, as well as harsh conditions. More than 6,000 children are estimated to have died in residential schools.

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett announced that educational videos about this dark chapter of Canadian history will be ready for use in schools starting in the fall, describing it as a “small step” on the path to reconciliation. “This is being done not only because it’s important for indigenous people to hear these words in their own languages,” she said. “It will also help further education on the destructive legacy of residential schools and help promote the languages that so many students and families lost as a result of these past experiences.”

Bennett acknowledged that the residential schools’ policies inflicted trauma on the indigenous communities that progressed to long-persisting problems like alcoholism, drug addiction, and high rates of incarceration. “This is a linear relationship, and we have to be much better about dealing head-on with what that trauma has done and be ever watchful to make sure nothing (like it) can happen again,” she said.

The apology has been translated into Mohawk, Plains Cree, Western Ojibway, Mi’kmaq, Inuktitut, Dene, and Algonquin, and posted online at the National Center for Truth and Reconciliation’s website. Read the apology here in all 7 languages.

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