Trudeau urges reflection about atrocities and reconciliation this Canada Day

“We all need to pledge ourselves to make Canada better while respecting and listening to those for whom Canada Day is not yet a day of celebration.”

Another gruesome discovery has been made today on the site of a former residential school in Canada, this time 182 remains in Cranbrook, B.C. This is the third such finding this month, but hardly the last. Between 1834 and 1996, there were 139 residential schools across Canada, attended by over 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Métis children between the ages of 4 and 16 years old. In the wake of these events, many have suggested that Canada Day be cancelled this year.

Last week, following the announcement that 751 unmarked graves were found outside what was once a residential school on Cowessess First Nations land in Saskatechewan, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke at a Rideau Cottage press conference about this shameful chapter in Canada’s history and how this Canada Day should be a time for reflection.

“This was an incredibly harmful government policy that was Canada’s reality for many, many decades and Canadians today are horrified and ashamed how our country behaved,” Trudeau said. “(It was) a policy that ripped kids from their homes, from their communities, from their culture and their language and forced assimilation upon them. This is a piece of our past that resonates and echoes and continues to be a lived reality of consequences for many, many Canadians today.”

“Specifically to the members of the Cowessess community, we are sorry. It is something that we cannot undo in the past but we can pledge ourselves every day to fix in the present and into the future. That means recognizing the harm, the impacts, the intergenerational trauma, the cycles of challenges the Indigenous peoples face in this country because of actions that the federal government and other partners deliberately and willingly undertook.

“Canada didn’t happen by accident and it won’t continue without effort,” Trudeau concluded. “This coming Canada Day, I think we all need to pledge ourselves to doing what we can to continue that effort and make Canada better, all the while respecting and listening to those for whom it’s not yet a day of celebration.” ■

To read about the history of residential schools from the Truth and Reconciliation report, please click here for part 1 and here for part 2. Emotional and crisis referral services are available to survivors and others affected by the Indian residential school system at the 24-Hour National Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419.

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