Trudeau says Canadians ‘horrified and ashamed’ of forced assimilation

• PM responds to discovery of graves at Indigenous schools

• Trudeau stops short of ordering national investigation

Justin Trudeau has said that Canadians are “horrified and ashamed” by their government’s longtime policy of forcing Indigenous children to attend boarding schools where nearly 1,000 unmarked graves have now been discovered – but stopped short of launching a national investigation.

An estimated 751 unmarked graves were recently discovered on the grounds of the former Marieval Indian residential school in Saskatchewan which operated from 1899 to 1997. Last month, 215 remains were reported at a similar school in British Columbia.

From the 19th century until the 1970s, more than 150,000 Indigenous children were forced to attend state-funded Christian schools – mostly run by Roman Catholic missionary congregations – in a campaign to assimilate them into Canadian society.

“This was an incredibly harmful government policy that was Canada’s reality for many, many decades and Canadians today are horrified and ashamed of 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.”

The federal government has previously admitted that physical and sexual abuse was rampant in the schools, with students beaten for speaking their native languages. Thousands of children died of disease and neglect.

The recent discoveries have fanned growing calls across the country for an independent investigation into what happened at the residential schools. Speaking to reporters on Friday, however, Trudeau made no indication his government was considering a national investigation.

Trudeau’s government has also come under fire from opposition parties and Indigenous advocates, who have called on him to end litigation against First Nations children who suffered in foster care, and residential school survivors.

The Liberal government has appealed against a 2019 Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling that ordered it to pay C$40,000 (US$32,500) to First Nations children taken from their on-reserve homes and communities. The compensation order follows a separate tribunal ruling in 2016, which determined that the federal government failed to provide the same funding to Indigenous children as welfare services elsewhere in the country, a move that amounted to discrimination.

Trudeau’s government is also battling survivors of St Anne’s residential school in Fort Albany, Ontario, over compensation.

“Should someone who went to a day school for a few months or a year be compensated to the exact same amount as someone who was in a traumatic situation over many, many years, where they were taken from their families and had a very, very different experience?” said the prime minister.

“Right now, the human rights tribunal says everyone should get exactly the same amount. We don’t know that that’s entirely fair.”

Contributor

Leyland Cecco in Toronto

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Canada: at least 160 more unmarked graves found in British Columbia
Penelakut Tribe says graves found close to Kuper Island school, which was run by the Catholic church and closed in 1975

Leyland Cecco in Toronto

13, Jul, 2021 @3:02 PM

Article image
First Nation calls for release of school records to identify residential victims
Indigenous community’s report on finding of 215 unmarked graves in May calls for wider search and seeks Canada state and church records

Leyland Cecco in Toronto

15, Jul, 2021 @6:55 PM

Article image
Canada must reveal ‘undiscovered truths’ of residential schools to heal
The man who led the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission insists an independent investigation into decades of abuse of Indigenous children is essential

Leyland Cecco in Toronto

27, Jun, 2021 @9:45 AM

Article image
Indigenous people in Canada win right to use original names after forced assimilation
Government seeks to atone for historical abuses as new policy comes after discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves

Leyland Cecco in Toronto

16, Jun, 2021 @10:00 AM

Article image
Trudeau files last-ditch appeal against billions for Indigenous children
Tribunal ordered Canadian government to pay compensation to First Nations children who suffered discrimination in welfare system

Leyland Cecco in Toronto

29, Oct, 2021 @10:34 PM

Article image
‘Those children could be my relatives’: Canada’s first Indigenous forensic pathologist on unmarked graves
Kona Williams says many unanswered questions remain about how to investigate remains found at the sites of residential schools

Leyland Cecco in Toronto

26, Jul, 2021 @10:10 AM

Article image
Canada has lost its halo: we must confront our Indigenous genocide | Tara Sutton
Hundreds of unmarked graves, and testimonies of countless horrors, belie our angelic self-image

Tara Sutton

29, Jun, 2021 @11:00 AM

Article image
Canada: pressure on Catholic church to compensate victims of residential schools abuses
Scale of church’s assets revealed in string of investigations as discovery of unmarked graves prompts fresh reparations calls

Leyland Cecco in Ottawa

10, Aug, 2021 @11:50 AM

Article image
Canadian MP says Trudeau 'doesn't give a fuck' about indigenous rights
Romeo Saganash made the comment in parliament during a discussion of the recently halted Trans Mountain pipeline project

Leyland Cecco in Toronto

26, Sep, 2018 @3:34 PM

Article image
Indigenous Canadians complain of neglect as government helps refugees
As the country pledges to take in more Syrians, many of its First Nations communities still face hardships that have led to a wave of suicide attempts

Ashifa Kassam in Toronto

21, Apr, 2016 @12:00 PM