AFN on fifth anniversary of residential school apology: 'Actions must match words'

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The following statement was issued Tuesday by the Assembly of First Nations. 

On the fifth anniversary of Parliament's Apology for Indian Residential Schools, Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo called attention to the outstanding requirement for all governments and all Canadians to commit to reconciliation.

"There is a growing frustration among First Nations across the country with lack of action and lack of commitment on the part of the Government of Canada to work in real partnership with our peoples and governments," said AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo. "Five years ago, the Prime Minister stated: 'There is no place in Canada for the attitudes that inspired the Indian Residential Schools system to ever prevail again.' Those attitudes include the colonial notion that other governments know best for First Nations and have the right to make decisions for us, yet we have not seen change in the continued pattern of unilateral approaches and imposed legislation.  This is incongruent with the apology and other commitments. We must break the pattern once and for all. Actions must match words. Our people are calling for a true and collective commitment to reconciliation that respects First Nations peoples and rights as the way forward to a stronger Canada."

The historic apology offered to residential school survivors took place in the House of Commons June 11, 2008.  It included a commitment by Parliament and all of Canada to join First Nations on a shared journey toward healing and reconciliation, including ensuring continuity with healing efforts initiated through the Aboriginal Healing Foundation.

"All those affected by the Residential Schools must be supported in their healing journey," said AFN Regional Chief Bill Erasmus who leads the national advocacy work in this area "The work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission remains fundamentally important and the Government of Canada must cooperate fully in achieving their mandate, including programming and supports for all survivors and their descendants."

In a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper dated June 10, 2013, National Chief Atleo and the AFN national executive committee outlined key areas for action based on shared commitments toward reconciliation. A similar letter was also sent by all parties to the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement of 2007.

"On this important anniversary, we honour the many survivors of Indian residential schools and their families," said National Chief Atleo.  "Without their strength and courage to share their stories and push for reconciliation, we would not be in a position to address the challenges we face today. In spite of challenges, First Nations are implementing First Nation-driven solutions based on their rights and their Treaties. This work is aimed at supporting and strengthening our governments, building our economies, providing fair and equitable education and health systems for our kids and families in ways that honour our heritage and languages and ensuring our citizens and communities are safe and secure. We must see concrete action by government to support these efforts now."

The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Comms, @AFN_Updates.


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