Canada apologizes for abuse of aboriginal children inschools

June 12th, 2008 - 9:56 am ICT by IANS  

Montreal, June 12 (DPA) Two years after the Canadian government reached a $1.9-billion settlement over the abuse of aboriginal children in special schools, Canada’s prime minister formally apologized Wednesday for the suffering. I come before you today to offer an apology to former students of Indian Residential Schools,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said addressing a packed House of Commons. The treatment of children in Indian Residential Schools is a sad chapter in our history.”

Hundreds of residential school survivors, some wearing traditional aboriginal costumes, had filled the parliament gallery. Hundreds more stood outside watching the proceedings on giant television screens.

For more than a century, between the 1870s and late 1970s, Indian residential schools separated over 150,000 aboriginal children from their families and communities, Harper said.

Two primary objectives of the residential school system were to remove and isolate children from the influence of their home, families, traditions and cultures, and to assimilate them into the dominant culture, to kill the Indian in the child,” Harper said.

The church-run schools were established with the assumption that the aboriginal culture was unable to adapt to the “modern” world and the aboriginals stood a better chance of surviving if they converted to Christianity and learned to speak English or French.

But many students lived in substandard conditions and endured horrific mental, physical and sexual abuse at the hands of their guardians, Harper acknowledged.

It is estimated that almost half of the children died of disease and malnutrition. Many native groups have called the residential school policy cultural genocide, which they blame for ongoing problems of higher-than-average suicide rates, drug abuse and alcoholism among Canadas 1.2 million aboriginal people.

Today, we recognize that this policy of assimilation was wrong, that it has caused great harm and has no place in our country,” Harper said to a round of applause. To the approximately 80,000 living former students and all family members and communities the government of Canada now recognizes that it was wrong to forcibly remove children from their homes and we apologize for having done this.”

The leader of Canadas official opposition, St

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