Manitoba Indigenous reconciliation minister offers 'sincerest apologies' over residential schools remarks

·2 min read
Alan Lagimodiere speaks to Manitoba media Thursday after being sworn in as minister of Indigenous reconciliation and northern relations.  (CBC - image credit)
Alan Lagimodiere speaks to Manitoba media Thursday after being sworn in as minister of Indigenous reconciliation and northern relations. (CBC - image credit)

Manitoba's newly minted minister for Indigenous reconciliation has issued an apology after he said those who ran residential schools believed "they were doing the right thing" minutes after being sworn in.

"I would like to offer my sincerest apologies to all Indigenous and non-Indigenous Manitobans, and Canadians whom I have offended greatly with my remarks yesterday," Alan Lagimodiere said in a statement issued late Friday afternoon.

"I want to acknowledge the words I used to respond to a question about residential schools, during my first scrum as a new minister in this very important portfolio, were wrong, and I genuinely and sincerely ask for your forgiveness," his statement said.

Lagimodiere has been under fire since making the comments, which were called out to his face by Opposition leader Wab Kinew during Lagimodiere's first-ever press conference as minister for Indigenous reconciliation and northern relations.

In his Friday statement, the minister said he recognized the "hard truths" of the impact of residential schools in Canada and Manitoba and that there's a "collective responsibility" to listen and learn.

"It is our duty to create understanding and move forward together, to support the necessary process of truth telling and healing, and to work towards a better future, in the spirit of reconciliation," he said.

"We must right the wrongs of the past."

Apology follows resignation, premier's remarks

The apology comes after a tumultuous week in Manitoba provincial politics that saw Lagimodiere's predecessor, MLA Eileen Clarke, resign from her cabinet post following remarks made by Premier Brian Pallister suggesting that the colonization of Canada was done with good intentions.

Earlier Friday, Families Minister Rochelle Squires said she was "deeply troubled by recent events and comments" and would be taking time to reflect, listen and better understand her own responsibilities toward reconciliation.

Lagimodiere, who is Metis, said he is committed to building respectful relationships with the Indigenous community and its leaders and was reaching out them to "begin this important dialogue and to chart a path forward together to advance the very important work ahead of us."

CBC has requested an interview with Lagimodiere but has not heard back.

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