First Nations, Residential Schools and Land Claims

The Hon. Jim Prentice,
Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development,
House of Commons,
Ottawa.

Dear Mr. Prentice:

I understand that your Department has begun to search archival records for information concerning deaths of students at residential schools. This is a positive move. It is long overdue, although I can well understand that the government has been reluctant to move quickly to further open this can of worms. Many people are still bleeding over the loss of loved ones and they must be given every possible piece of information concerning their tragedy, and every opportunity for closure. Congratulations on taking this courageous step.

I happened to be listening to CPAC this afternoon, and was deeply moved by the speech in the House by the member for Temiscaming detailing the sufferings of the Native people, especially in relation to the residential schools. He said nothing that I hadn’t heard before, but to hear it gathered in one speech, and with such passion was a moving experience.

It is most gratifying to learn of the positions taken by the churches, and of their willingness to apologize to the First Nations for this and other injustices committed over the years. We of the majority population must continue to explore the nature of those injustices and their effects on the Native peoples, in order that we may continue to make appropriate reparations and guarantee equality of opportunity for all.

It is difficult to understand the reluctance of the Government to issue a national apology to the First Nations for its share of the responsibility in the tragedies at the Residential Schools. But now the decision has been made, and I congratulate you on your initiative. Of course the apology must be carefully worded. But Canada has had many years to prepare such a wording, and it is high time that this action be taken.

Two other matters. Periodically there is an outbreak of racial unrest, and even of violence, with resulting bloodshed and heavy expenditure. If, years ago, we had taken seriously our duty to settle land claims, I am sure we could have saved scores of lives and million of dollars. It is not too late to take action along these lines, and so prevent further unrest.

And we sometimes hear that (perhaps because of The Indian Act) the Native people do not have the same human rights protection as other minorities. This matter should be studied, and, if possible, rectified as soon as possible.

Keep up the good work.

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