Mr. Speaker, I rise today, on behalf of all New Democrats, to acknowledge the pain and the suffering of generations of victims of Canada's Indian residential schools, an insidious institutional plague that ravaged Canada's first peoples for more than 100 years.
Today we remember the childhoods that were destroyed, the lives that have been forever changed by this intergenerational tragedy. We acknowledge the terrible burden of the Indian residential schools, the emotional scars and the economic impact being carried to this day by Canada's first nations, Métis and Inuit people.
The words of survivor Flora Merrick help us to understand the lifelong pain endured by victims. She said:
During my stay at Portage la Prairie residential school, I witnessed the injustices of beatings and abuse of other children, some whom were my siblings. We were treated worse than animals and lived in constant fear. I have carried the trauma of my experience and seeing what happened to other children all my life.
New Democrats welcome the announcement today by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. We are pleased that at long last an agreement has been reached and advance payments for aging survivors can begin to be made.
I want to salute, as well, the organizations representing first nations and the victims for their tireless and endless efforts in this regard. I also want to mention the work of our own member on this file over the years.
However, this is by no means the end of this sad chapter in our collective history.
We still have work to do. We have to begin the process of restoration and pardon, and we must make sure that all victims finally receive compensation before more individuals die while waiting. We must not forget the Métis victims, like those from the residential school of Île-à-la-Crosse, who are still struggling to be recognized.
Today survivors, their families and all Canadians look to the Prime Minister to rise in his place and offer an apology on behalf of the Government of Canada, an apology for the grave injustices, abuse and trauma inflicted by the Indian residential schools, an apology that is decades overdue.
If the Prime Minister does not apologize, this government will be showing that it is no more capable than the Liberals of assuming responsibility for past wrongs and doing what is needed to right them.
Canadian aboriginal people have waited long enough. We want no more excuses or delays. We call upon the Prime Minister to take the next step and apologize, so that we finally might repair this difficulty that has existed between our nations.