“While this long overdue apology will not undo the harm done, we offer it as a sign that we as a government and as a country accept responsibility for our failings.”
Between 1884 until 1996, when the last of the schools closed, children were removed and separated from their families and communities and sent to residential schools – church-run institutions and government-funded boarding schools.
The children were often not allowed to speak their language or to practise their culture.
“They were made to feel ashamed of who they were,” Mr Trudeau said.
More than 3,000 children died while at the schools and others suffered physical, emotional or sexual abuse.
“This burden is one you no longer have to carry alone. It’s my hope you can get some closure, that you can give your inner child some rest, that you can finally begin to heal,” he said.
In the early 20th Century, the Moravian Mission and the International Grenfell Association established boarding schools for indigenous children with the support of the province. The last of those schools closed in 1980.
The survivors were excluded from the formal federal apology issued by former prime minister Stephen Harper almost a decade ago because the schools existed before the Atlantic province joined the confederation of Canada in 1949.
Over 1,000 survivors of those schools disagreed with being excluded and filed a class-action against the government, which was settled in 2016.
Through tears, residential school survivor Toby Obed accepted, on behalf of all the students, the official apology from the federal government.
“This apology has been a long time in the making. Too long,” he said.
In 2008 “we felt left out, forgotten and abandoned. Canada has now accepted responsibility for all that we went through”.
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