Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
June 21, 2010
Aboriginal leaders offer forgiveness to PM
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS
OTTAWA - A national coalition of First Nations, Métis and Inuit leaders have offered forgiveness to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
They presented the prime minister with the Charter of Forgiveness and Freedom, a formal response to Harper's historic 2008 apology in the House of Commons for Indian Residential Schools.
The response took place at the National Forgiven Summit here June 11-13 that drew thousands of residential school survivors, their descendants and well-wishers from across the country.
"This is the hour of healing and restoration for all our people," organizer Kenny Blacksmith, who spent 11 years in a residential school, said before presenting Indian and Northern Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl with the charter June 12.
The forgiveness charter acknowledges the profound hurt aboriginal peoples have experienced in the IRS policy that tried to "kill the Indian in the child" and separated them, often forcibly, from their families.
The charter recognized "that forgiveness is not political; it cannot be legislated."
"Our choice to forgive breaks the generational cycle of victimization and accusation, and blesses those who seek forgiveness and those who forgive," it said.
The Assembly of First Nations, however, did not have an official presence at the gathering. AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo stressed in a statement that the summit was independently organized.
"The charter cannot and must not be characterized as a statement on behalf of all First Nations people," Atleo said.
"While some of our people may be ready to forgive and take the next steps in their healing journey, many others are not.
"This must be respected."
"Forgiveness is an individual choice and a personal decision.
"No one can forgive on someone else's behalf," he said.
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