Mr. Speaker, we are not proud of our history in our dealings with the first nations community. It is something we in the House have indicated that we do not condone. I hope we have learned from our history so that these things never happen in the future.
There is a first nation community within my constituency. I meet with band members when I have the opportunity. I was on the regional treaty advisory committee for several years. Chief Robert Louie and some of the other band members are very progressive in the Okanagan. They are some of the most progressive bands in Canada. I applaud their initiatives for providing safe drinking water, clean and affordable shelter, education and economic opportunities and, something we all hope to foster, development within the first nations as they continue to be a big part of our future, as they have been in our history.
I listened to the member opposite this morning and there was indeed an apology issued. I would like to read for the House the aboriginal first nations National Chief Phil Fontaine's acceptance of the 1998 statement of reconciliation:
It took [the government] some courage to take this historic step, to break with the past and to apologize for the historic wrongs and injustices committed against our people. It is therefore a great honour for me, on behalf of the First Nations, to accept the apology of the government and the people of Canada.
Last week in my office in Ottawa I had a meeting with Richard Jock and some of the other members of the AFN. We continue to work on fostering relationships with our first nations community.
I would also like to point out to the House that since then, many churches, the institutions that actually ran the schools, have made formal apologies and have gone to the brink of bankruptcy to pay compensation.
In December 2006 Phil Fontaine commented on the residential schools settlement agreement. That agreement was concluded by this government under the excellent leadership of the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. Phil Fontaine said:
We have in this agreement recognition that harm was done to our people and that those who harmed our people are prepared to accept their responsibility.
These comments allude to the fact that our government is very sensitive to this issue and is getting the job done. The Liberals did not get the job done on the residential schools settlement. They also seem to be denying something they did. In 1998 Jane Stewart, then minister of Indian affairs, issued a statement of reconciliation titled “Learning from the Past”, in which she declared:
To those of you who suffered this tragedy at residential schools, we are deeply sorry.
That sounds a lot like an apology to me. I ask the member opposite, does that not sound like an apology to him?