June 11th marked the fifth anniversary of the Canadian Government’s formal Residential School apology. This apology took place in the House of Commons on June 11, 2008 and included a number of commitments toward healing and reconciliation and redressing the historical wrongs of Residential Schools. The full text of the apology can be seen here.
What progress has been made since 2008? The Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement that began in 2007 has played out across Canada. Deadlines for the Common Experience Payment and Independent Assessment Process have passed and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada is nearing the deadline of it’s mandate. Despite these deadlines having passed or approaching the TRC is still struggling to gather all relevant information relating to Residential Schools, there are a number of Residential School Survivors did not participate in the CEP or IAP processes, and students who attended day schools have yet to been formally addressed by the Canadian government.
Since 2008, funding to numerous Aboriginal organizations have been cut. Organizations that were impacted by these cuts include: the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, National Aboriginal Health Organization, the Aboriginal Portal, the health budget of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), health funding to the Native Women’s Association of Canada, and many other organizations.
On June 3rd Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada announced a new slate of funding changes and cuts to 43 Aboriginal organizations. These new cuts impacts the AFN, the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, the Métis National Council and ITK.
The loss of funding to health programs and continued under funding of educational programs in remote communities is a stark contrast to the promises made in the 2008 Apology. Promises of building relationships and supporting communities are good in theory, but actions speak louder that words. Added to the historic wrongs of Residential Schools, a history of colonialism and broken promises, the recent actions of the government have the potential to have impacts of ongoing efforts of healing and reconciliation.