Will saying sorry ever be enough?

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is expected to deliver an apology today to all Canadian Aboriginals for the horrific and disgusting treatment of young Aboriginals in former residential schools.

We quickly puff out our chests as Canadians about how tolerant and accepting our society is. However, you do not have to look too far back into our history to see the monsters we once were. It may have been policies of Canadian governments of long ago but the complicit nature in which the pain and abuse suffered by the students was hidden by subsequent governments may mean saying “sorry” will never be enough.

The aim of residential schools was simple, it was about assimilation. It was about taking the “Indian” out of young Indian children. They were taken from their families and homes and forced to go to schools for retraining.

United and Anglican churches in Canada have apologized in the past for their roles in the attempted assimilation of Aboriginals. The Catholic Church has yet to step up and formally apologize, what they are waiting for may be only God knows.

The stories of what happened to these students are raw and stomach turning for our society, the “just society” Pierre Elliot Trudeau believed Canada could be. Students had their long hair chopped, were scrubbed raw in baths and told they were dirty, uncivilized and their culture and religion worthless. Sexual and physical abuse at those schools scarred a generation.

The Canadian government has paid out $1.3 billion of an expected total of $4 billion in compensation to former students already. Money surely is not the answer for the damage done but is saying “sorry” enough? I am not sure it is but what else can Canada do?

Visit Where Are the Children? for more information on the dark legacy of Canadian residential schools.


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