Ontario Apologizes for Residential Schools, Plans for Reconciliation

Premier Kathleen Wynne apologized today on behalf of the Government of Ontario for the brutalities committed for generations at residential schools and the continued harm this abuse has caused to Indigenous cultures, communities, families and individuals.

The Premier made her Statement of Ontario’s Commitment to Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples in the Legislative Assembly, with residential school survivors and First Nations, Métis and Inuit leaders in attendance. She apologized for the policies and practices supported by past Ontario governments, and the harm they caused, for the province’s silence in the face of abuse and death at residential schools, and for residential schools being only one example of systemic intergenerational abuses and injustices inflicted upon Indigenous communities throughout Canada.

In recognition of this historic event and Ontario’s nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous Peoples, the Legislature voted unanimously to open the floor to speeches from Opposition party leaders, Indigenous leaders including a statement from Andrew Wesley, a residential school survivor who attended St. Anne’s Indian Residential School in Fort Albany in his youth.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne Rises in the Legislature
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne Rises in the Legislature

The Premier’s apology is part of the government’s response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Final Report, released one year ago. Ontario is taking action to acknowledge one of the most shameful chapters in Canadian history and teach a new generation the truth about our shared history. The province released an action plan today — developed working closely with Indigenous partners — that will help Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples move forward in a spirit of reconciliation.

The Journey Together: Ontario’s Commitment to Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples plans to invest more than $250 million over three years in new initiatives in five areas:

  • Understanding the legacy of residential schools: The province will ensure that Ontarians develop a shared understanding of our histories and address the overt and systemic racism that Indigenous people continue to face
  • Closing gaps and removing barriers: Ontario will address the social and economic challenges that face Indigenous communities after centuries of colonization and discrimination
  • Creating a culturally relevant and responsive justice system: The province will improve the justice system for Indigenous people by closing service gaps and ensuring the development and availability of community-led restorative justice programs
  • Supporting Indigenous culture: Ontario will celebrate and promote Indigenous languages and cultures that were affected after generations of Indigenous children were sent to residential schools
  • Reconciling relationships with Indigenous Peoples: The province will support the rebuilding of relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people through trust, mutual respect and shared benefits.

Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper officially apologized on behalf of the federal government in 2008.  The Truth and Reconciliation commission released its recommendations in June, 2015.  The first Residential Schools opened in Ontario in 1832, with the last one closing in 1991.