May 30, 2005 16:48 ET

Anishinabek leader optimistic about residential school announcement

Attention: Assignment Editor, News Editor NIPISSING FIRST NATION--(CCNMatthews - May 30, 2005) - Grand Council Chief John Beaucage is optimistic that today's appointment of a federal mediator will expedite a fair settlement for thousands of residential school survivors.

The federal government announced that former Supreme Court Judge Frank Iacobucci will mediate ongoing talks for the federal government and report by March on whether all former students should receive lump-sum rewards for damages, sources said. He'll also explore the value of a truth-telling forum for abuse survivors, and the need for an apology from the prime minister.

Beaucage congratulated National Chief Phil Fontaine, whose lobbying for lump-sum settlements prompted today's announcement.

"The National Chief has steadfastly pursued this cause for over a decade," said Beaucage. "His public acknowledgment of his residential school experience has helped give other survivors the courage to begin their healing process, and to help Canadians understand the tremendous soci-economic damage these schools inflicted on First Nations peoples."

"Those who do not understand the devastating inter-generational impacts of residential schools say aboriginal people need to forget about the past and just get on with their lives," said Beaucage. "We can no more forget about the lasting legacy of residential schools than Jewish communities around the world can forget about the Holocaust."

The Assembly of First Nations has proposed a basic cash payment of $10,000 to each recognized residential school survivor, and an additional $3,000 for each year spent in the schools.

"Compensation is important to many survivors whose residential school experience directly contributed to lives of poverty and social dysfunction," said Beaucage. "But in the long term, reconciliation and healing will be the most valuable contributions to Canada's national well-being. Healing can best begin with a meaningful apology from Prime Minister Paul Martin."

Beaucage said it is also important that the government follow up March's mediation findings with a comprehensive public education campaign about aboriginal peoples and issues, something that he says was not sustained after Canada's 1998 official response to the report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.

The Anishinabek Nation incorporated the Union of Ontario Indians as its secretariat in 1949. The UOI is a political advocate for 42 member First Nations across Ontario. The Union of Ontario Indians is the oldest political organization in Ontario and can trace its roots back to the Confederacy of Three Fires, which existed long before European contact.
/For further information: Jamie Monastyrski,
Communications Officer
Union of Ontario Indians
705-497-9127 x 2290

Contact Information

  • Bob Goulais, Executive Assistant to the Grand Council Chief, UNION OF ONTARIO INDIANS
    Primary Phone: 705-498-5250
    Secondary Phone: 705-497-9127 ext. 2249
    E-mail: goubob@anishinabek.ca