Our fault, not yours
As early as the turn of the century, the government recognized industrial schools were an abject failure, but then passed subsequent amendments to the Indian Act to fill different iterations of boarding schools with successive generations of First Nations, Métis and Inuit children. Mr. Harper acknowledged the difficult, indisputable facts: The children were deprived of the necessary nurturing of their parents and communities, the food and housing was inadequate to the job. Many died of disease in the church-run schools and thousands were abused sexually, physically and emotionally. The crushing effect that residential schools had on aboriginal culture, language and traditions gave rise to generations of parents unable to appropriately nurture their own children, Mr. Harper acknowledged. Noting that reconciliation has been sadly delayed by the refusal of governments to apologize, Mr. Harper asked for the forgiveness of aboriginal people.
Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion, in an act of impressive contrition, noted his party was in power for 70 years of the 20th century, the bulk of the years when 150,000 aboriginal children were taken to the 132 schools far from home. As families, communities and children suffered, governments clung to denial and when that was impossible, they ignored their responsibility or adopted a silence, he said.