Governor General of Canada

Governor General of Canada

June 13, 2008 15:49 ET

Message From her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaelle Jean, Governor General of Canada, on the Apology to Former Students of Indian Residential Schools

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - June 13, 2008) -

It was only a few days ago that I watched Chief Phil Fontaine of the Assembly of First Nations deliver a rousing speech about the tragic history of the Indian residential schools. In the presence of more than 200 young professionals from across the country, he laid bare horrific stories of abuse and dispossession that saw thousands of Aboriginal children, including him, torn away from their families, and stripped of their cultures and languages.

Shock and horror were visible on everyone's face, as they absorbed, many for the first time, the enormity of these injustices. Profoundly troubled, the audience gave Chief Fontaine a standing ovation and made an emotional plea for forgiveness.

The fact that so many were oblivious to this disgraceful chapter of our history reveals a troubling truth: numerous Canadians ignore these devastating events and thus are unable to grasp their terrible consequences. This explains why so many people are unable to comprehend the distress that is so pervasive in many aboriginal communities.

The time had come for Canadians to break down the wall of indifference and, through an unequivocal gesture, reestablish the truth so that we all accept to act together to right this historical wrong.

History will forever remember the declaration pronounced on June 11, 2008.

In front of millions of Canadians, words of sorrow and regret gave way to expressions of hope and reconciliation, as a powerful admission of wrongdoing resounded across the country. Survivors of the baneful residential schools witnessed what many thought would be impossible. And, they wished with all their hearts that this blessed day would illuminate the hope and promise of a better future for all Canadians.

I was so touched to witness the signing of the solemn, historic and crucial declaration. In the midst of burning sweetgrass, sacred songs, fiddling and dances, we listened to painful testimonies mixed with tears of joy and spiritual blessings. Never have drums resonated so strongly in the heart of the Parliament building. Together-Inuit, Metis, First Nations and non-Aboriginals-we celebrated the richness of a heritage that has survived decades of offense. Together, we joined hands in committing to bridge the gaps entrenched by years of injustice.

Clearly, this is not the end of the journey. But, as Chief Fontaine said, "We still have to struggle, but now we are in this together."

Michaelle Jean

Contact Information

  • Rideau Hall Press Office
    Lucie Caron
    Official Spokesperson to the Governor General of Canada
    Marthe Blouin