PM Trudeau addresses the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada in Ottawa
Merci. Thank you. Gaylakasna. Masicho. Qianamik. Marci. Ouelalan. Megwich. Thank you. Thank you for being here today.
Thank you to the Commissioners who have done extraordinary work. Thank you to Eugene, Madeleine, John, for your strength, for your stories.
You know, John highlighted something for me. I went to some very good schools as a child and throughout this experience I can only feel guilty, but at least very aware of the contrast between my schooling and the experiences some others went through, the survivors went through, the families of the survivors went through, and those who were not survivors. And in the course of the good schools I went to I remember one moment in the Canadian history class when we got to the chapter in the textbook on indigenous Canadians. Good school, good teacher, good textbook I suppose. And the teacher shrugged and said, this chapter is not very interesting and not very important so we're going to skip it. And we went on to talk about the Durham report or some other such things.
Well let me tell you, the work that you have done here today, the work that all of you here are part of, will ensure that never again in the future of Canada will students be told that this is not an integral part of everything we are as a country and everything we are as Canadians. That is a promise we make right here, all of us, together.
I want to thank you for welcoming me into traditional Algonquin territory. And I want to thank the elders, the chiefs, the church representatives, and all parties from the House of Commons, and everyone involved in the residential school settlement agreement who have come together today.
Thank you for inviting me.
For some of you who are here today, the last time we met was in June at Rideau Hall during the ceremony that marked the end of the many years of hard work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Just like everybody who was there that day, I will never forget that event. This memory will remain in my heart and influence the actions of my government, the Government of Canada, on the path to reconciliation.
To the many former residential school students with us today or watching at home, thank you for your extraordinary bravery. Thank you for your willingness to share your stories. The previous government expressed this well when it said in its formal apology that your courage is a testament to your resilience as individuals and to the strength of your cultures. The apology also noted that the burden of this experience has been on your shoulders for far too long. The burden is properly ours as a government, and as a country.
Our goal as we move forward together is clear. It is to lift this burden from your shoulders, from those of your families and communities. It is to accept fully our responsibilities and our failings as a government and as a country.
Seven years later the apology is no less true and no less timely. The Government of Canada sincerely apologizes and asks the forgiveness of the aboriginal peoples of this country for failing them so profoundly. At the same time, today, there is reason for hope. Today we find ourselves on a new path, working together toward a nation-to-nation relationship based on recognition, rights, respect, cooperation, and partnership.
As I told chiefs at the Assembly of First Nations last week, and as was expressed in our Throne Speech, we need nothing less than a total renewal of the relationship between Canada and indigenous peoples.
This is a commitment that I, and we, take very seriously. In their mandate letters I told government ministers that no relationship is more important to me and to Canada than the one with First Nations, the Métis nation, and Inuit peoples. Let me say it once again. I give you my word that we will renew and respect that relationship.
(Applause & cheers)
Tomorrow, I will be meeting with national Aboriginal organizations. We will be starting an important and necessary discussion on how to move forward towards reconciliation. Today, I have the honour of accepting, on behalf of the Government of Canada, the Commission’s final report. The result is... this report is the result of more than six years of hard, diligent and often very moving work.
Commission Chair Justice Murray Sinclair, and commissioners Chief Wilton Littlechild and Doctor Marie Wilson, worked tirelessly and at significant emotional cost to themselves as well, with courage and valour, worked tirelessly to bring to light the truth about residential schools in Canada. They helped provide a safe place for those who suffered so that they could tell their stories and feel supported and heard. They struck a careful and compassionate balance between opening old wounds and providing survivors the chance to heal. And they delivered a final report that honours the courage of each and every former student and family member who shared their testimony.
The final report provides a way forward for all Canadians, building on the formal apology of seven years ago. It sets us squarely on the path to true reconciliation. The Government of Canada is committed to walking that path with indigenous peoples in partnership and in friendship. In fact, that work has already begun. A national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls is now underway.
(Applause & cheers)
Ministers are meeting with survivors, families, and loved ones to seek their input on how best we shall move forward.
We reiterated our commitment to making important investments in education for First Nations and eliminating the ceiling at 2 per cent for funding programs geared towards them.
In partnership with Aboriginal communities, the provinces, territories and other key partners, we will also implement in full the actions recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. We will start by following up on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
And we recognize that true reconciliation goes beyond the scope of the commission's calls to action. I am therefore announcing that we will work with leaders of First Nations, the Métis nation, Inuit, provinces and territories, parties to the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement, and other key partners to design a national strategy… engagement strategy for developing and implementing a national reconciliation framework, including a formal response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action.
(Applause & cheers)
On the path to truth and reconciliation that we are taking together, we will continue to pay tribute to the life and experiences of people who have disappeared and those who are still among us today. We will remember that our obligation towards each other transcends our official agreements. This obligation also dictates how we will treat each other with respect and dignity.
We will remember, always, that reconciliation is not an indigenous issue; it is a Canadian issue.
Thank you for the opportunity to share in this important work. I am honoured to be your partner and your friend.
(Applause & cheers)