Thursday, June 12, 2008

A Major First Step, but A Long Way to Go

Yesterday I watched the residential schools apology proceedings as they were taking place. While others can certainly find some fault with the proceedings, I really do believe the official proceedings all went as well as could be expected and I found it very moving to watch, especially as I was there watching it among people for whom it was so important and rightly so.

The fact is this was long overdue and I know from my discussions with many Native groups over the years it has been something they have been waiting for far too long. From my discussions with them, they have said that an apology would have been more meaningful to them than any sort of compensation. But a true apology is not just words, but the actions from the one asking forgiveness after the apology matter just as much if not more so. I hope that the apology will be a first step towards better cooperation, and even trust between the Canadian Government and Aboriginal Peoples going forward.

This much overdue apology really only began a short time ago, with the Chretien government when Jane Stewart was Indian Affairs Minister and continued with Paul Martin and the appointment of Frank Iacobucci and the Residential Schools financial settlement. However, the truth of the matter is, what means the most is the official apology from the Government of Canada by the Prime Minister, and it has taken far too long to arrive at. I applaud all the parties for stepping up and saying all the things that needed to be said in their apologies to the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada and also for allowing the Aboriginal leaders to speak with frankness from the floor of the House of Commons.

But while this is a major step in closing an extremely tragic dark chapter in our country's history let us not forget the troubles our Aboriginal People's still face today. This does represent a major step in opening up the ability of us to, perhaps for the first time, to really come together as equals and working on our futures together. Perhaps if an apology occurred earlier, we could have been a little further in our relationship with each other, but we must not let those thoughts enter flood either side with bitterness. There is much work to be done and I hope all parties can ensure that we will arrive at a day when we will be hearing Aboriginal groups from across the country saying "thank you for hearing our call - I am proud to consider myself both, an Aboriginal and a Canadian".

We still have a long way to go, but it is the duty of the government of Canada to ensure our First Nations are never again left behind and that they can enjoy the same standard of living and opportunities as all Canadians do. We must listen to their calls and we cannot fail them again.

NB: I will not be talking about the Poilievre scandal because I believe that regardless of any ill action, more attention should be paid to the historic value of the apology and what we will be doing as a nation to move forward in peace together. I hope all parties can focus on that much moreso going forward than we have in the past.

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