Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Final Report on Residential Schools Survivors Signals Time for Government to Act

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Final Report on Residential Schools Survivors Signals Time for Government to Act

Article excerpt

Final TRC report points to hard work ahead

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OTTAWA - A teary Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is vowing his government will go beyond the 94 "calls to action" cited in the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission into Canada's residential schools system.

The commission formally wrapped up its six-year-plus odyssey Tuesday with another emotional ceremony in Ottawa, this time to deliver the complete, seven-volume, 3,766-page report that supports the three-member commission's recommendations.

"We need nothing less than a total renewal of the relationship between Canada and indigenous peoples," Trudeau told a packed convention hall in downtown Ottawa.

"I give you my word that we will renew and respect that relationship."

Trudeau, whose Liberals came to office in October, was pointedly reminded before speaking that he was about to become the first prime minister to formally address the commission, which was born out of a 2007 class-action judgment won by residential school survivors.

Commissioner Marie Wilson noted that all other parties to the court-ordered agreement responded formally last June to the commission's preliminary findings, but not the Conservative government.

Conservatives remained skeptical Tuesday. Indigenous affairs critic Cathy McLeod called the Liberals "irresponsible" for acceding to all 94 of the TRC's recommendations "with no detailed impact analysis or comprehensive costing."

But Wilson pointed out "just how capable of responding" Canadians are, using the example of Syrian refugees over the past number of weeks, adding she hopes Canadians "will look close to home in considering what we deem to be urgent."

For a prime minister with a very full plate facing Canada's longest-running policy debacle -- an assimilationist education model that pre-dates Confederation, characterized by the commission as "cultural genocide" -- Trudeau waded into the fray with a soft-spoken speech that was part lament, part apology and part promise.

The goal of government actions, he said, "is to lift this burden from your shoulders, from those of your families and communities. It is to accept fully our responsibilities and our failings as a government and as a country."

His father, Pierre Trudeau, also attempted to tackle the long-festering relationship between the Crown and First Nations in his first term as prime minister.

The 1969 federal government white paper on "Indian policy" proposed to abolish the 1867 Indian Act and remove the distinct legal status of indigenous peoples, including treaty rights, in an effort to end what it called a discriminatory relationship. The elder Trudeau abandoned the policy in 1970 after a massive outcry from First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples.

More recently, the 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples expressed many of the same themes and concerns as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, complete with recommendations for action. …

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