Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to stand before you to reaffirm our government’s commitment to advancing reconciliation with aboriginal people who suffered from the residential school system.
This week marks the closing event of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This event marks a significant milestone in the successful implementation of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, and in meeting the goal of moving towards healing, reconciliation and resolution of the sad legacy of the residential school system in Canada.
Today, to all former students who have come forward to speak about their experiences, to all who have shown extraordinary courage and resilience, to their families, and to everyone who has suffered from the impacts of this very dark chapter in our history, I would like to offer a statement of reconciliation.
The strength, determination, and resilience they and many former students I have met shared in discussing their experiences and in talking about the legacy of the Indian residential schools is admirable. These qualities are necessary to ensure that Canadians have a greater understanding of the long-standing harms caused by the Indian residential school system for aboriginal people across Canada.
On June 11, 2008, the Prime Minister apologized on behalf of the Government of Canada, and all Canadians, for the forcible removal of aboriginal children from their homes and communities to attend Indian residential schools.
In this historic apology, the Prime Minister recognized that there is no place in Canada for the attitudes that inspired the Indian residential school system to ever prevail again.
The apology affirmed Canada’s commitment to joining aboriginal peoples on a journey of healing towards reconciliation.
The commission was mandated with a unique opportunity to educate all Canadians on the Indian residential schools to forge a new relationship between aboriginal peoples and other Canadians. While this is the commission's closing event, the work to heal the relationship between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians must continue.
On this day, let us commit to taking one more step together to rebuild the relationship between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians. This renewed relationship requires sharing the truth.
Compiled through the work of the commission, the historical record of Indian residential schools made possible by the thousands of individuals who courageously came forward to tell their stories is an achievement of national significance. This profound and lasting record will help Canadians toward renewed relationships based on understanding and respect.
Reconciliation is a goal that will take the commitment of multiple generations, and the Government of Canada understands the importance of transforming how it works with aboriginal people and shifting attitudes and perceptions among all Canadians.
Reconciliation is an active process that requires ongoing engagement. The government looks forward to continuing dialogue with all Canadians, aboriginal and non-aboriginal alike, about advancing reconciliation.
To that end, Canada is committed to working toward reconciliation, building on the Prime Minister's historic 2008 apology to former students of Indian residential schools, their families and communities. This will be achieved by acknowledging, learning from and addressing past wrongs, being responsive to aboriginal peoples' expressed needs and priorities, actively engaging Canadians in reconciliation efforts, and commemorating the significant contributions of aboriginal peoples and cultures to Canadian society.
The stained glass window installed in the Centre Block of Parliament is a poignant reminder of the true meaning of reconciliation, not only for the members of Parliament who enter through the door above which it sits, but for all Canadians.
I am confident that we will be able to continue healing as a nation, building on the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It is in this spirit that Canada pledges that it will continue its efforts to advance reconciliation.
To that end, Canada is committed to working towards reconciliation.