Scouts Canada issues apology for role in ‘historical harm’ on Indigenous Peoples

Scouts Canada has issued an apology for its role in the eradication of First Nation, Inuit and Metis people for more than a century.

“We are sincerely sorry for the historical harm we believe we have inflicted on the Indigenous children, families, communities and nations,” Scouts Canada CEO, Liam Burns announced to Indigenous representatives in Winnipeg.

Scouting was prominent in Canada’s residential and day school systems. It was the program of choice used alongside the church to strip Indigenous youth of their identities.

“It has been used as a way to tell young people with Indigenous backgrounds that they should be someone different, that their values should be something given to them, not from their ancestors or their people, but from an outside organization,” Burns said.

“It took things like land stewardship and skills and beliefs and tried to claim it as our own rather than something that their peoples have looked after for time immemorial,” Burns said.

Damon Johnston of the Aboriginal Council in Winnipeg said the apology is “a good step forward.” He said he had positive experiences as a youth in Scouts but wasn’t aware of the program’s origins. He said the apology will educate the youth currently enrolled.

“We welcome [the apology] during a time of truth and reconciliation and for the United Nations Declaration of the Right of Indigenous People,” he said.

The Scouts Canada website states, “At Scouts, our values are founded on kindness, respect for others and self-progression; however, we have not always been true to these guiding qualities.”

Burns said moving forward Scouts Canada will be making some changes, including programming that is centered on Indigenous land-based learning.

“We hope to co-design ways of making scouting a safe place for young people with Indigenous backgrounds if they want to be a part of it, but also making sure that for all young people, our history is accurate, that we don’t appropriate language and symbolism that isn’t ours and that we are seen as a friend and an ally moving forward,” said Burns.

As part of its apology, Scouts Canada is holding four in-person gatherings throughout October 2023. Other events are planned for Halifax, Vancouver Island and Ottawa.

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