Mr. Speaker, my apologies.
This cooperation between the former Liberal government and the AFN culminated in a formal agreement. It included a national apology. It included a compensation process for victims of sexual and physical abuse. It included a lump sum payment for former students. It included a truth and reconciliation commission with national and regional processes, as well as funding for an Aboriginal Healing Foundation. It was a step in the right direction to overcome this black mark in our history.
In November 2005, while continuing to build on the principles of partnership and respect, the former Liberal government successfully brought together Canada's first ministers and aboriginal leaders in Kelowna, British Columbia. They signed the Kelowna accord. This historic $5 billion investment included money for education, included investments for housing and infrastructure, included investments for health care, included investments for economic opportunities for the aboriginal and first nations communities, and included investments for relationship building and accountability.
In addition to the Kelowna accord funding, a variety of funding mechanisms, initiatives and resources were provided to ensure that we would provide compensation for the direct benefit of former students and toward a fair and lasting resolution of the legacy of Indian residential schools. There were investments to ensure that aboriginal communities would benefit through such things as early learning and child care programs and housing on reserves. We ensured that we would build relationships to allow aboriginal and first nations children and young people the opportunity to go to school, to get post-secondary education. We ensured that the aboriginal communities would share in the gas tax revenues and that we would invest in aboriginal businesses and housing.
The initiatives were many, but unfortunately, one of the first acts of the Conservative government was to turn its back on aboriginal Canadians by ripping up the Kelowna accord. The Conservative government failed as a result to invest in health care, to invest in education, to invest in opportunities for aboriginal Canadians.
The after-effects of the suffering that has been endured by the survivors of Indian residential schoolchildren continues to plague aboriginal people in this country.
I was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and as such, I have seen and heard stories first-hand from some of the survivors. I have seen the impact on the survivors as a result of their being in the residential schools. Each and every one of them has been impacted. This painful legacy continues to affect over 80,000 survivors in this nation to this day.
For many of those who attended these schools, the scars from the emotional, physical and sexual abuse remain. They suffer from shame and embarrassment, and nightmares. We only need look at some of the challenges that plague the aboriginal communities across the country to realize that. There is widespread alcoholism, drug abuse, violence. There are high suicide rates in these communities. These are issues the survivors are still struggling with as a result of the impact of the trauma that they suffered in residential schools.
What is more, the policies of assimilation that were adopted by many of these schools have resulted in diminishing important cultural traditions that the aboriginal community had. It has diminished valuable aspects of the aboriginal culture, heritage and language. Rather than encouraging a sense of pride and confidence in their cultures and the traditions of their communities, their experiences at these schools have resulted in their being demoralized and ashamed of their culture and traditions.
A simple apology is not a lot to ask for, but for the survivors of the residential schools, it is an integral part of their healing process.
After much stalling by the Conservative government, and after much persistence by some of the opposition parties, the Conservatives finally agreed to implement the $2.2 billion residential school agreement that had been reached by the former Liberal government. The government still refuses to issue a national apology. The Minister of Indian Affairs claims that after the truth and reconciliation commission he may decide to issue an apology. That will be five years from now.
I would urge the government to do the right thing, to show some leadership and to take some action. I urge the government to stand in the House and support this important motion. I urge the government and the minister to do the right thing and apologize to all survivors of residential schools in this country.