Residential schools apology too late, say survivors
Two P.E.I.-based survivors of the native residential school system say the apology from the federal government should have come long ago.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper stood up in the House of Commons Wednesday to apologize to former students of the federally financed, church-run schools, which were designed to force aboriginal people to assimilate with the dominant culture. Many of those who went to the schools also suffered sexual and physical abuse.
There were about 130 residential schools set up across the country, with some operating as early as the 19th century to 1996. However, Prince Edward Island was one of the few provinces that didn't have one.
However, about 40 people now living on P.E.I. attended the schools, mostly in Shubenacadie, N.S. Some of those survivors opted to stay home as many aboriginal people from the Maritimes gathered at the site in Shubenacadie on Wednesday.
"Five years was enough for me [at the school]. That's why I didn't go over today," said John A. Scully, who lives in Morrell.
Scully, who says he suffered both physical and sexual abuse at the school, said the federal government's apology means little to him.
"It don't matter to me much, but I guess there was some people that went through worse than I did," he said.
Scully did not want to talk about the sexual abuse, but said he still had scars on the side of his head from being hit with a scrubbing brush. For him, what meaning there might have been in the apology is lost in the long wait.
"It should have been done a long time ago, I would say. Years ago," he said.
"There's been a lot of suicides. I was an alcoholic myself. I'm still an alcoholic, but I'm sober for 13 years."
Apology should come from church: survivor
Albert Bernard of Scotchfort also stayed home Wednesday — and also harbours horrible memories of the Roman Catholic-run residential school in Shubenacadie.
"It was like you were like a pig, the way they treated you. You had to eat peels and rotten potatoes. When there was fish, you had to eat the bones too," said Bernard.
"The fellow was sitting next to me couldn't eat the stuff. He threw up and they made him eat his puke."
Bernard believes Harper's apology is empty because he wasn't the abuser.
"I don't blame Stephen Harper for what happened. It's the religious program that done the job, that's how I look at it," he said.
"I think the bishop in Halifax should apologize, and the sisters."
The gathering at Shubenacadie was one of more than 30 across the country to hear the apology.
The federal government has also formalized a $1.9-billion compensation plan for victims and set up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to examine the legacy of the residential schools.