The Innu Nation says it will not accept an apology from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for Canada’s role in the residential school system in Labrador, APTN News has been told.
Trudeau is scheduled to be in Happy Valley-Goose Bay Friday to make the apology in person.
But the Innu leadership said the residential school system that saw children ripped from their families is too similar to the number of Innu children in the care of the province and living away from their families.
“A lot of these kids that are outside of the communities are suffering a loss of identity, loss of culture and loss of connection to family,” said Innu Nation Grand Chief Gregory Rich.
In fact, elders and community members told leadership not to even attend the apology, said Rich.
Helen Andrew, 51, of Sheshatshiu spent seven years at the Yale residential school in North West River.
“When I was taken from my parents in the 70s I was a little girl,” she said, adding two of her sisters were also taken. “There was sexual and physical abuse.”
Andrew said when she finally got to go home she barely spoke her own language and her parents didn’t speak any English.
“I was speaking part English and Innu to them so they didn’t understand,” she recalled.
But Andrew believes the impact on her people started before the residential school era, when they were forced to settle where they are now in the 1960s.
She said they were nomadic people who migrated with the caribou.
“When we were told to settle here that had a great, devastating effect on our culture,” she said.
Labrador was left out of former prime minister Stephen Harper’s 2008 apology. Canada maintained it did not have a responsibility to the students of the province’s five residential schools because Newfoundland and Labrador joined Confederation in 1949, after the schools began operating.
Shortly after taking office, the Liberals settled a $50 million class-action lawsuit that the Harper administration had been fighting.
The issue of Innu children in state care is the subject of an upcoming provincial inquiry that was announced July 6.
The Innu Nation and province of Newfoundland and Labrador are currently working out the terms of reference for the inquiry.