June 11, 2008 is considered parliamentary history as Prime Minister Stephen Harper recounted the legacy of assimilation policies as Aboriginal peoples, Inuit, and Métis listened on. This day marked the first time a Canadian state Prime Minister publicly apologized on behalf of the Government of Canada for the Indian Residential School era. The floor of the House of Commons was filled with drums and cheers for a hopeful moving forward and closure to an era that affected generations of Indigenous peoples. It was a highly emotional day for many Residential School survivors, families, and communities; many remember and have stated they can place where they were when they watched the apology.
The churches involved with the operations of the Residential Schools were the first ones to issue apologies, beginning with the United Church in 1986, then the Roman Catholic and Oblates in 1991, the Church of England in 1993 and the Presbyterian Church the following year. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police also issued an apology in 2004 for their role. You can read the apologies at the following websites.
- United Church Apology
- Pope Benedict XVI apology
- Anglican Church Apology
- Presbyterian Church Apology
- RCMP Apology
- Prime Minister Harper's Apology
There has since been criticism for the government in terms of funding cuts with the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, which could lead to hindering the healing of Indian Residential School survivors. Dene National Chief, Bill Erasmus, stated that cutting funds violates the Residential School Settlement Agreement, which had been approved federally to compensate Aboriginal communities in the aftermath of residential schools. The termination of funds for the AHF contradicts the spirit of the apology given by Prime Minister Harper for the establishment of the Residential School System and further contradicts the Truth and Reconciliation Program instituted by the government to provide Aboriginal families the opportunity to speak about their experiences with the help of healing programs (http://voices-voix.ca/en/facts/profile/aboriginal-healing-foundation).