By Richard Wagamese
When I heard your words in the House of Commons that were deemed an apology for the debacle of Canada’s residential school system, I was heartened. At that time, it was nothing short of amazing to hear a prime minister use the word “wrong” in reference to Canada’s treatment of aboriginal people. Now, nearly four years later, I look at the astoundingly hurtful cuts to organizations whose sole purposes are the re-empowerment and well-being of aboriginal people, and I am disheartened. Hell, Mr. Harper, I am downright angry.
You said “sorry” and you were not. In aboriginal context, an apology means that you recognize the flaw within yourself that made the offence possible and you offer reconciliation based on understanding the nature of that flaw. That reconciliation takes the form of living and behaving in the opposite manner. You have not done this. In fact, you have continued in the same vein that made the original apology necessary.
Residential schools effectively separated aboriginal children from the influence of everything that could sustain, perpetuate and define them. When you cut funding for the National Aboriginal Health Organization and the Native Women’s Association of Canada’s health program and ended the mandate of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, you did the same thing.
Your apology and any actions you have undertaken since have only been the expedient motions demanded by tragedy, catastrophe or the public outing of your government’s callous indifference to the needs of Canada and her people.