Alberta becomes second province to apologize to residential school survivors, then calls for action on MMIW

(Editors Note: APTN National News originally reported that Alberta was the first province to apologize to residential school survivors. On June 12, 2008, then premier Gary Doer apologized in the Manitoba legislature making it the first province to formally apologize)

APTN National News

EDMONTON — The Alberta Government apologized to victims of residential schools Monday, the first province in Canada to do so and also joined other jurisdictions to call for an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women.

“Although the Province of Alberta did not establish this system, members of this Chamber did not take a stand against it,” said Notley in a ministerial statement during session at the Alberta Legislature. “For this silence, we apologize.”

She said the past is too painful to endure on one’s own, to the former children who entered the schools “alone and frightened.”

“In the journey of reconciliation you no longer have to walk alone. Your truth has woken our conscience and our sense of justice.”

About two dozen invited guests including residential school survivors, Alberta chiefs and representatives of Indigenous advocacy groups were present during the apology.

Treaty Six Grand Chief Bernice Martial was in attendance.

“It was overwhelming for me,” said Martial. “I thought, ‘Wow!’ finally coming from a premier.”

Chief Ron Morin of Enoch Cree Nation near Edmonton said he was appreciative of the apology, but added with all of the sorry’s said by governments in recent years, it’s time they took reconciliation to another level by sharing natural resource revenues.

“Many of us are saying if you don’t want to go that extra step and deal with that component of financial aspects then we think a lot of this is disingenuous in the sense that they’ll go so far in social components but not all the way with natural resources,” said Morin. “And the life blood that provides quality of life for people to have a job and earn a living. They should go that extra mile and deal with it and talk with chiefs across Canada and the wrongful taking of those natural resources,” said Morin.

From left: Enoch Cree Nation Chief Ron Morin, Alexander First Nation Chief Kurk Burnstick, Cold Lake First Nation and Treaty 6 Grand Chief Bernice Martial, Alexis Nakota Sioux First Nation Chief Tony Alexis and Woodland Cree Chief Issac Laboucan at the Alberta Legislature today following the apology and announcement. Photo: Brandi Morin/APTN

The apology was followed by an announcement for support of a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women.

Notley said her government recognizes a connection between the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and the residential school legacy.

“We also deeply regret the inter-generational damage that perpetuates itself in poverty, neglect, drug addiction, mental health issues, and great despair…The Truth and Reconciliation Commission spoke to a devastating link between the large number of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and the many harmful factors in their lives, such as domestic violence, poverty and the number of Aboriginal children in the child welfare system.”

Notley added that her government is committed to addressing the root causes of violence against Indigenous women.

“Because we understand that true reconciliation is a matter of action, not just words.”

She stated that Alberta is working with Aboriginal communities and organizations to improve the lives and safety of Aboriginal women through supporting the Moose Hide campaign, an initiative aimed at men taking a stand against violence toward Aboriginal women and girls.

Chief Martial, an outspoken advocate on violence against Aboriginal women and girls said she is hopeful Prime Minister Stephen Harper will reconsider his stance on a National Inquiry.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Martial.

According to Notely, Alberta is working with all levels of government to address MMIW, and that the province is committed to work with the First Nations Women’s Economic Security Council and the Metis Women’s Economic Security Council regarding trafficking of women and girls in Canada.

“Our hearts…and a strong sense of justice and humanity compels us to speak loudly and clearly for these young, beautiful women who were mothers, daughters… sisters… who were deeply loved and are now deeply missed. We join the families, national Aboriginal organizations, the provinces and territories to lend our voice to the call for a national inquiry, because it is the right thing to do,” said Premier Notley.

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