"Mr. Speaker, I stand before you today to offer an apology to former students of Indian residential schools," Harper said in Ottawa, surrounded by a small group of aboriginal leaders and former students, some of whom wept as he spoke.
"The treatment of children in Indian residential schools is a sad chapter in our history.
"Today, we recognize that this policy of assimilation was wrong, has caused great harm, and has no place in our country," he said to applause.
"The government now recognizes that the consequences of the Indian residential schools policy were profoundly negative and that this policy has had a lasting and damaging impact on aboriginal culture, heritage and language," Harper said.
"While some former students have spoken positively about their experiences at residential schools, these stories are far overshadowed by tragic accounts of the emotional, physical and sexual abuse and neglect of helpless children, and their separation from powerless families and communities."