Some form of relief is going to come to the survivors of Newfoundland residential schools later this year. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to apologize to the former students of Newfoundland and Labrador residential schools sometime in September. He will be traveling to Labrador for the apology though the exact dates are yet to be released.
The move is an attempt to put things on the right course after the Stephen Harper government excluded schools of the Atlantic province from an apology and compensation package back in 2008. The lawyers representing the 800 student survivors pressed that Ottawa should pay the same duty of care after Labrador and Newfoundland became a part of the Canadian Confederation in 1949.
The residential schools of the area had been a place where Aboriginal students were put in an attempt to rob their native identity. Children as young as five years old were repeatedly harassed and abused even for speaking their own language. Cindy Dwyer who was a student of North West River reveals that she faced physical, psychological and sexual abuse during her schooling there. She was made to feel just like another child without a self-identity which hampered the development of self-worth, self-value and self-esteem in her. She feels that the apology from Trudeau is going to ease the pain experienced by her.
Another survivor Toby Obed said that the apology will help to provide some peace to the tortured child inside him. It eases the pain of being left out of the 2008 apology and will help in his healing. The current apology also validates the suffering of the students of Newfoundland and Labrador for the first time. But not all the survivors are ready to want Trudeau’s apology. Steven Cooper, lawyer of many student survivors said that some feel that the apology comes as a forced move and is not going to change anything. Though Cooper revealed that it had value for the majority of the former students and the apology was more meaningful than any financial settlement.
The Liberal government under Trudeau has decided to offer a $50 million compensation package that goes to settle claims like sexual and physical abuse and loss of culture and language. For the 100 years that the schooling system existed, many students even died and were put in unmarked graves. The abuse and isolation inflicted on the students are the cause of a generation wide trauma and suffering of the native communities even in this age. The apology is not the final step in the process of justice but is a step towards the right direction. The settlement from the government saw an end to a ten-year long legal struggle.