By: Olivia Morris
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has apologized to hundreds of Newfoundland and Labrador residential school survivors today.
Thousands of Indigenous children were taken from their communities to attend residential schools between 1949 and 1979. The schools were run by the International Grenfell Association (IGA) or Moravians.
Many survivors said they were punished for speaking, were isolated from their families and stripped of their identity.
Trudeau stood before hundreds in Happy Valley-Goose Bay Friday morning, acknowledging the absence of an apology that delayed healing and reconciliation for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people of Canada.
“Canadians and their government have turned a blind eye on this story because it runs counter to the promise of this country and the ambition of its people,” Trudeau said.
“It’s time for Canada to acknowledge its history for what it is: flawed, imperfect and unfinished.”
One of the residential school survivors, Toby Obed, accepted the country’s apology on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of former students.
“I come from a patient and forgiving culture, I think it is proper for us to accept the apology from the Government of Canada,” Obed said.
In 2008, under the Harper Conservatives, the Goose Bay students were excluded from an apology given to other survivors. They were also not included in a $50-million settlement given to those mentioned in a 2016 class-action lawsuit.
“When they gave that apology in Ottawa, we got excluded,” he said.
“I never thought that this would happen; I thought we would be fighting and fighting and fighting and fighting the court for years and years and years.
“Sorry, but, you have a fight in me.”
Obed acknowledged an apology won’t heal everyone’s pain.
“We got our apology. I accept the apology on behalf of the residential school survivors, even though some may not want me to,” he said.
Trudeau closed his apology by emphasizing reconciliation with the Indigenous community.
“Let this day mark the beginning of a new chapter in our history, one in which we vow to never forget the harm we’ve caused you and vow to renew our relationship,” he said.
“Let this new chapter be one in which Indigenous and non-Indigenous people build the future they want together.”