Mar 19/98: Apology accepted without peoples' approval



Canadian Alliance in Solidarity with the Native Peoples (CASNP)
Thursday, March 19, 1998

CASNP. 19-Mar-98. Many non-natives were moved by the Canadian government's apology over their attempt to deliberately destroy Indigenous families, homes, communities and nations in order to partake of their continent and the resources thereon. Funny, many natives did not notice. So why did the message not get across to the Indigenous people?

The apology says, in effect, "Well, now I've said I'm sorry. So it's okay now and we can go on like nothing happened. And here's some money to help you forget". The Minister of Indian Affairs, Jane Stewart, cried because she was so deeply moved. Most Canadians who were moved by this were mainly naïve if genuinely believe they can fix past wrongs in this way. Had they thought things through they may have realized that something so superficial could not fix anything. Don't forget this was a planned, evil act covered up for decades, perpetrators protected, responsibility denied. An apology directed to that specific transgression by the federal government would be more reasonable. Unfortunately, Stewart's apology doesn't mention that for a good reason.

Phil Fontaine, President of the Assembly of First Nations, which is funded and controlled by the Canadian Government, accepted the apology on behalf of all Indigenous People and agreed in effect to not have any inquiry or go any further into the whole issue. On March 31st 1997 a "healing fund" corporation will be set up to admnister the $300 million apology fund. The funds will be run through the Department of Health and Welfare and spent on the advice of their government band council cohorts.

The question is will the apology stop the ongoing abuses and cure the social sicknesses of the abusers, the Canadian society? Will it give the Indigenous people back their culture, traditions, languages, lands and resources? Will it remove the bad faith between Canadians and Indigenous people? Canadians need a great deal of factual education before their children start take on all the misguided norms that have victimized Indigenous people for centuries. To change this takes time. Many older people set in their ways won't change. So change should start with the young people. For a start, this means a curriculum developed by Indigenous people placed in every educational institution at every level. Right now Canadians go through the education system from grade school to post secondary education without learning the true history and legal underpinning of how Canada was established, on Indigenous land and built up financially by the exploitation of Indigenous resources.

Some Indigenous people have suggested to Canadians, "Take back your money and fix yourselves. After all, you are the abusers and you have the problems. The Indigenous people are the victims. Go educate yourselves. Fix your sick system that abuses people. Yes, you will need our help to overhaul your system." If the will is there a school curriculum can always be fixed.

Indigenous people had their own holocaust which happened over centuries. So why should they be expected to respond so warmly to an apology when people like the Jews who suffered their own holocaust would never be expected to accept such a simple apology?

Indigenous people were suppose to change or die. They did not. So what now? Are all wrongs washed away by the mere passing of time with the words, "I'm sorry"? To put it mildly, the Indigenous people don't feel that Canada is sincere.

Marilyn Buffalo, President of the Native Womens Association of Canada, explains in part why Canada did not go beyond an apology, "Genocide is a crime under international law. Canada signed the United Nations Convention on Genocide in 1946". In article 2 of the present convention genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy in whole or in part a national ethnic, racial or religious group, as such: a) killing members of the group; b) causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group c) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; d) imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group and e) forcibly transferring children of the group to another group. In other words, Indigenous People can charge Canada with the crime of genocide.

Buffalo continued, "The men accepted this apology without asking the rest of us. Women are holding back because they don't have the support network around them to disclose the facts. Until such time they feel they have been given the healthy setting, they cannot break the silence of the residential school experience".

Those against this apology being accepted on their behalf by the Assembly of First Nations without being asked could file an injunction against it.


Native Women's Association of Canada
Tel: (613) 722-3033
Fax: (613) 722-7687

CASNP Canadian Alliance in Solidarity With The Native Peoples

Supporting documentation and elaboration of Ms. Buffalo's position is available at:

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