Federal Liberals are puzzled over the Conservatives’ refusal to apologize to residential school survivors.
“It’s hard to understand, considering they provided one for Maher Arar and one for the Chinese head tax,” said Yukon MP Larry Bagnell.
Aboriginal people were taken from their families, forced to not speak their language and some were abused.
“It’s hard to see why that wouldn’t warrant an apology,” said Bagnell. “Aboriginals have said that this is very important to them.”
First Nation groups across the country have held news conferences and released statements urging the minister to issue a full apology.
“An apology to our Indian residential school survivors will also assist in healing our First Nation communities as the legacy of this issue continues to live on, not only with former students, but with their families and the families of those who have passed away,” Atlantic Policy Congress co-chair chief Noah Augustine said in a release.
“Survivors are dying at a rate of three to five per day in Canada and an apology needs to happen now. It’s the right thing to do.”
The Conservative government has been criticized for the decision in the House of Commons.
“First Nations are being left behind by the government,” New Democrat Jean Crowder, the member for Nanaimo-Cowichan, said in Parliament on Tuesday.
“Why does the minister and the government refuse to apologize to First Nations for the cultural destruction brought about by residential schools?” she said.
There is no apology forthcoming because it is not mandated in the “very comprehensive” settlement agreement, Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice told the House this week.
The government will implement the agreement as it has been negotiated, said Prentice.
The Conservatives are contradicting a promise the past Liberal government made to the Association of First Nations, said Bagnell.
In 2005, then Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan said a settlement would be followed by an apology to “provide a broader recognition of the Indian residential schools’ legacy and its effect on First Nation people,” said Bagnell.
In June, Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered a full apology to Chinese Canadians for the head tax meant to discourage immigration from China from 1885 to 1923.
In January, Harper apologized to Maher Arar after he spent nearly a year in a Syrian jail where he was tortured.
Assembly of First Nations regional chief Rick O’Brien could not be reached for comment.