Justin Trudeau Says He Feels 'Guilty' Over Canada's Indigenous Abuses
Canada is making real progress toward renewing relationships with Indigenous citizens.
Justin Trudeau will meet with Canada's indigenous leaders today in Ottawa on the one-year anniversary of a startling report outlining a long history of abuse and neglect.
The Prime Minister said he will update leaders on his administration's efforts to make up for more decades of mistreatement. Ahead of the summit, Trudeau announced that the government has started working 41 of the 94 calls to action that were outlined in the indigenous community’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission final report.
The efforts include launching an investigation into the country’s 4,000 missing and murdered indigenous women, creating a National Council for Reconciliation, and acknowledging the government's failure to provide adequate healthcare for indigenous people.
Today, he will seek advice from indigenous leaders on how to implement better health care, education, clean water, and employment opportunities for indigenous communities outlined in the
“While much more remains to be done, I believe that we are making real progress towards renewing our relationship with Indigenous Peoples,” said Trudeau.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) report, released last year, highlighted how 150,000 aboriginal children had been removed from their homes and forced to attend government-run residential schools in Canada from the late 1800s to the late 1900s. Forced into education separate from their culture, residential schools were an inherent act of cultural genocide, the TRC stated in its final report, which took into account six years of collecting information from people who attended residential schools.
An estimated 3,200 people died while attending the residential schools. The chair of the commission, Murray Sinclair, said even more people are likely to have died as the burial records Canada has were poorly documented.
Children were also sexually and physically abused partly due to lack of supervision, which created environments for abuse to continue, according to TRC’s report.
The report also calls for 94 policy actions for the Canadian government to take based on past policies of the schools in order to reconciliation to move forward. The calls to action cover policies on child welfare, education, language and culture, health, justice, and terms for reconciliation.
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Trudeau acknowledged both guilt and awareness toward the schooling of indigenous children in the 19th century and other issues, such as Canada’s 4,000 missing and murdered indigenous women, that the TRC’s report brought forward.
“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,” said Trudeau at a ceremony for the TRC Tuesday.
He promised to implement all of the report’s calls to action, and to continue meeting with the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis organizations.
“In this Kelowna-like process, every year, we will meet to develop policy on shared priorities, and monitor our progress going forward. Similar meetings with key Cabinet Ministers will take place at least twice each year,” said Trudeau.
The government is scheduled to begin holding hearings on the missing and murdered women next year, according to Canada's Global News.
The Canadian government will also provide $10 million to the TRC for the commission to continue its work advancing and fighting for the rights of indigenous communities.