World Bulletin / News Desk
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologized Friday on behalf of Canada to former indigenous students for the abuse they suffered at residential schools in Newfoundland-Labrador province.
He delivered the apology in person in Goose Bay, Newfoundland-Labrador with hundreds of former students in attendance.
“The treatment of indigenous children in residential schools is a dark and shameful chapter in our country’s history,” Trudeau said. “For all of you, we are sincerely sorry.”
Thousands of indigenous Innu children were taken from their homes between 1949 and 1979 and forced to attend schools – five in all – run by the International Grenfell Association, or Moravians, a Protestant religious sect.
Many suffered sexual and physical abuse and also lost their culture and language in an attempt to make them “white.”
In 2008, former Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued compensation and an apology for those who attended the schools in other parts of Canada.
But there was no money or apology to the Newfoundland-Labrador students because, Harper argued, the schools were set up before Newfoundland joined Canada in 1949 and were not run under the federal government.
Last year, the federal government under Trudeau settled a $50 million class action lawsuit with about 1,000 of the Newfoundland-Labrador students and promised an apology, which he delivered Friday.
“While we cannot forget the history that created these residential schools, we must not allow it to define the future,” Trudeau said. “We call upon all Canadians to take part in the next chapter, a time when indigenous and non-indigenous people build the future we want together.”
Residential school survivor Toby Obed accepted the apology on behalf of the students, even though he said some were against the acceptance.
“I accept your apology on behalf of the residential school survivors, even though some of them may not want me to,” Obed said. “I never thought this would happen.”
Some Innu leaders boycotted the ceremony because while the apology addressed those in residential schools, it did not include other places where they say their people were abused.
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