Message from the Governor General on the occasion of the 15th Anniversary of the Residential School Apology

June 11, 2023

I remember the day, 15 years ago, when the Federal government delivered an apology to all Indigenous peoples for Canada’s role in residential schools. I was there, in the House of Commons, accepting the apology delivered by Prime Minister Harper and conveying a response on behalf of Inuit, alongside other Indigenous leaders. It was an honour to represent Inuit, who had waited so long to hear those words. 

The apology was an acknowledgement of the pain and suffering felt by so many. It was a day we entered a new chapter of Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples. 

It was a day, when, for the first time, many Indigenous peoples, particularly survivors, felt seen.

Fifteen years later, Canada continues to work towards reconciliation. And our progression, while gradual, is happening. But it is not without heartache. We see pain resurface every time unmarked graves are found at residential school sites across the country. And we saw this renewed pain again last summer when the Pope came to share his apology for the horrors of residential schools. For far too many, intergenerational trauma continues to have physical, mental and emotional repercussions.

Healing takes time.  

But it will go faster if we are committed to being open with one another. Be open to learning the truth and to helping communities looking for closure. Be open to telling their stories. Be open to every perspective that can form our national narrative—our collective history—and share it widely, in schools and in our communities. Be open to reconciliation.  

Reconciliation is the responsibility of all Canadians—Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike. Residential schools were about erasing Indigenous culture, traditions, language and identity. Together, let us find ways to ensure that First Nations, Inuit and Métis are supported, respected and thriving in the very areas residential schools tried to eliminate: culture, traditions, language and identity. And together, and perhaps just as important, we must find ways for Indigenous peoples to have equal access to all aspects of society and life in Canada, be that education, jobs, health care, clean water or other services non-Indigenous peoples may take for granted.  

No Canadian should be left unaware of what happened to Indigenous peoples at residential schools. Only through the truth and through knowledge can we move forward. 

As we mark this anniversary, let’s acknowledge how far we have come, and ask ourselves what we can do to write the next chapter of Canada’s reconciliation journey. 

Mary Simon

Media information:
Rideau Hall Press Office

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