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Canada Premier formally apologizes to Indigenous Peoples in Quebec

09:30  03 october  2019
09:30  03 october  2019 Source:   montrealgazette.com

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QUEBEC — Premier François Legault has formally apologized to the Indigenous Peoples in Quebec for systemic discrimination at the hands of public service providers. Rising in the National Assembly to make a rare solemn declaration, Legault said the Quebec state did not do enough to

QUEBEC CITY -- Quebec 's premier apologized to First Nations and Inuit people Wednesday for discrimination they suffered in dealing with the state Legault saluted those women's "courage" in his speech and noted that the Viens report found Indigenous women were disproportionately victims of

François Legault wearing a suit and tie: Quebec Premier François Legault© LUDOVIC MARIN Quebec Premier François Legault

QUEBEC — Premier François Legault has formally apologized to the Indigenous Peoples in Quebec for systemic discrimination at the hands of public service providers.

Rising in the National Assembly to make a rare solemn declaration, Legault said the Quebec state did not do enough to help the community — “a situation that is unworthy of Quebec society.”

“As a result, I offer members of the First Nations and the Inuit in Quebec the most sincere apology from the whole Quebec state,” Legault told a silent National Assembly.

“The Quebec state failed in its duty to you. Today it asks for pardon.”

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With the leaders of many First Nations and Inuit people in the gallery listening, Legault said the Viens Commission, which released its report Monday, uncovered “troubling situations where members of Indigenous communities were victims of discrimination.”

Viens’s No. 1 recommendation was that the government of Quebec apologize.

“This finding raises painful feelings,” Legault said.

He said he feels especially bad about the situation of Indigenous women in Val d’Or who were at the heart of Judge Jacques Viens’s report .

“I want to salute their courage,” Legault said.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd:  Indigenous leaders join hands while members of the National Assembly applaud after Premier François Legault issued a formal apology for the treatment of First Nations and Inuit communities in Quebec.© Jacques Boissinot Indigenous leaders join hands while members of the National Assembly applaud after Premier François Legault issued a formal apology for the treatment of First Nations and Inuit communities in Quebec.

But Legault added that in his mind an apology “is not enough.”

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Quebec Premier François Legault is asking the province’s Indigenous communities for forgiveness. As Global’s Dan Spector reports, the apology comes after the Viens Commission’s final report was released earlier this week.

Canadian lawmakers have asked the Pope to issue an official apology to its aboriginal peoples , whose native In the 19th century, the government of Canada developed a boarding school system to force the "aggressive assimilation" of indigenous Canadian tribespeople into the modern society of the time.

“We need to understand the reasons which brought us to this situation,” Legault said. “And from that point we must change things.”

“As is the case of all Quebec, we must do more and we must do better.”

He said any government actions have to be done with the First Nations and Inuit.

“Today, via this statement, I confirm Quebec will respond that we are ready,” he said, adding the government will carefully examine all of Viens’s 142 recommendations and act together with the affected communities.

In his report, Viens concluded First Nations and Inuit people face serious and systemic discrimination by service providers, including police forces.

“The findings of this report are overwhelming,” Legault said.

But he closed his remarks saying he wants to send a message of hope.

“For us to succeed, the government must absolutely avoid imposing solutions,” Legault said. “The key word is respect.”

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The Quebec Premier – who has dismissed calls for more inquiries into systemic racism in the province, saying the phenomenon does not exist – conceded the term applies for Indigenous people . “When it comes to Indigenous people in certain regions of northern Quebec , we have to accept there is

"I apologize to the indigenous people on behalf of the government, to give our deepest apology over the suffering and injustice you endured over the "I hope the belated apology , for all people in the country, is the first step on the road to reconciliation," she added. The island's indigenous community

Legault’s remarks were followed by those of the opposition leaders who said they join the premier in delivering an apology.

Interim Liberal leader Pierre Arcand said it is inconceivable that such social inequity still exists in Quebec in 2019.

And he delivered part of his remarks in English, something Legault did not do even though several of the leaders present in the gallery do not speak French. Legault did, however, meet privately with several of the leaders later.

“The honourable Judge Viens has produced a solemn and historic public inquiry,” Arcand told the house in English. “It must be a crucial catalyst for action. It was produced, most notably, with the courageous and painful participation of many Indigenous women who spoke to him of their terrible suffering.

“There is a collective responsibility now to change things, and let us all today embrace that responsibility.”

Québec solidaire co-spokesperson Manon Massé went further, greeting the leaders in several Indigenous languages and ending with a “Bonjour-Hi.”

Massé said the time has come to move beyond promises. QS intends to push to ensure each of the report’s recommendations gets put into action.

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Marie-Claude Lacroix, two-row wampum liaison of the Kanienkehaka Traditional Council, says Quebec continues to treat indigenous peoples disrespectfully.

What is the Pope apologizing for? The Indian Residential Schools forced upon the Indigenous Peoples in Canada. I think there is a pretty good possibility the Pope (Fancis) will apologize to the Indigenous People 's of Canada. I also believe that this whole process may take awhile, and here’s

“It’s up to us, the Quebec people, to resist the weight of ignorance, to accept the hand extended so many times by a people we have been with for centuries without actually knowing them,” Massé told the house.

Interim Parti Québécois leader Pascal Bérubé agreed an apology is not enough.

“While we should have co-operated together and evolved together, we have little by little dug a ditch, leaving too many people on the sides in the process,” Bérubé said.

Reaction from the Indigenous leaders was generally positive but several said it is critical the government move beyond the apology to action.

“It’s a first step,” said Viviane Michel, president of the Fédération des femmes autochtones du Québec. “I was happy to hear the word “inclusion,” I was happy to hear about the work we need to do between us and the Quebec people.”

Ghislain Picard, chief of the Assemby of First Nations of Quebec-Labrador, said he recognizes the effort at reconciliation on the part of the government but called for action to end discrimination in all government services.

It was the first time in recent history that a Quebec government has been called upon by a commission of inquiry to issue an apology.

Formal apologies initiated by the government itself are rare but have happened. In 1999, then premier Lucien Bouchard apologized in the government’s name for the Duplessis Orphans.

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In 2016, on the 10th anniversary of the collapse of the Concorde overpass, then premier Philippe Couillard issued an apology to the families of victims. He did the same thing a year later to motorists trapped on Autoroute 13 in a snowstorm.

Legault himself apologized last June after whistleblower Louis Robert had been unjustly fired.

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