Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has pledged to completely accept the government's failure in not acknowledging the century-long "dark chapter" of Canadian history, during which thousands of aboriginal children were forcibly sent to residential schools, where many endured physical and sexual abuse and even died. Trudeau accepted the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report on the incidents and vowed to work with Canadian Aboriginals, provincial governments and the churches to implement a national reconciliation framework.
"The Indian residential school system, one of the darkest chapters in Canadian history, has had a profoundly lasting and damaging impact on Indigenous culture, heritage, and language. As a father and a former teacher, I am overwhelmingly moved by these events. The Government of Canada 'sincerely apologises and asks forgiveness of the aboriginal peoples of this country for failing them so profoundly'," Trudeau said in a statement.
Although former prime minister Stephen Harper had apologised in 2008 to survivors of the residential schools, his government never accepted that it was genocide. However, justice Murray Sinclair, the chair of the TRC while submitting the report, said: "Canada clearly participated in a period of cultural genocide."
The report, released on Tuesday, 15 December, took over six years to compile after interviewing families of victims, documenting horrific physical abuse, rape, malnutrition and other atrocities suffered by many of the children.
The schools were typically run by Christian churches on behalf of Ottawa from the 1840s to the 1990s. The report identified at least 3,201 student deaths at the residential schools, but said it was possible that many more deaths went unrecorded. A national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls is now underway.
Trudeau endorsed the work of the TRC and said he will implement its proposals, although many do not fall under federal jurisdiction. The TRC report contains 94 recommendations for reform and puts pressure on federal and provincial governments to improve the lives of indigenous people in areas such as health care, education, child welfare, languages, culture and justice.
To read the full report and its findings click here.