Canada has apologised for forcing tens of thousands of aboriginal children into state-funded residential schools to assimilate them. 12 representatives of the First Nations people, including 104-year-old former pupil Marguerite Wabano, were in Ottawa’s parliament hear Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s announcement. “The government of Canada sincerely apologises and asks the forgiveness of the aboriginal peoples of this country for failing them so profoundly,” he said.
Australia apologised for a similar policy in February. Reaction to the news in Canada was mixed. “I think it was good, I think it certainly is about time. We’ve waited over a century for this” said one man. “It’s very emotional, because I wish my family members could have heard that” was one woman’s verdict. “I’m disappointed. The fact that he mentioned “some” people died, “some” children died. No, a lot of children died. They died in the tens of thousands” said a third.
The schools were initially set up in the 1870’s to educate the children. But they later became part of a government campaign to assimilate the youngsters and eradicate their culture. Many survivors say they suffered mental, physical and sexual abuse. The apology is part of a billion-euro compensation deal.