Harper’s 2008 residential school apology was ‘attempt to kill the story,’ says ex-PMO speechwriter
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s 2008 apology to Indian residential school survivors was a “strategic attempt to kill the story,” according to former speechwriter in the Prime Minister’s Office at the time.
Paul Bunner was the head speechwriter in Harper’s PMO between 2006 and 2009.
Bunner’s views on the Indian residential school apology and the possible motivation behind it recently surfaced on a blog by Coast Salish Native American writer Robert Jago who outed a series of Conservative candidates, current and former MP staffers, along with Bunner for their comments and views on First Nation people.
Jago, who currently lives in Montreal, is from the Nooksack Tribe in Washington State. His family is registered with the Kwantlen First Nation, in British Columbia.
Earlier this week, Sue MacDonell was fired from her role as director with the Bay of Quinte Conservative riding association after some of her online, racially-charged comments against First Nation people surfaced.
The blog highlights an article by Bunner written in 2013 titled, The Genocide That Failed, where the former PMO speechwriter discussed the 2008 apology.
“The best that can be said of Harper’s apology is that it was a strategic attempt to kill the story and move on to a better relationship between Native s and Non-Natives,” wrote Bunner, in the C2C Journal. “Unfortunately, it only appears to have deepened the conviction that Church and State conspired not only to ‘kill the Indian in the child,’ but also to physically exterminate the whole race. The Aboriginal grievance and entitlement narrative continues to gather momentum.”
Bunner stood by his writing in an interview with APTN National News Thursday. He said they did not reflect the views of the PMO at the time of the apology.
“That was just my opinion long after I left the PMO,” he said. “You know it seemed to me that it in the PM’s mind and presumably in the government’s mind, it was a sincere apology…My concerns about it were strictly my own and they were not obviously shared by the prime minister or other senior people in the PMO.”
Bunner said he told colleagues at the time he was unhappy with the prime minister’s plan to issue an apology for Indian residential schools.
“I was not happy with the apology,” said Bunner, in the interview. “I probably expressed it to some of my colleagues.”
Bunner said he had “very little input” on Harper’s apology speech, but he did read it before it was delivered by the prime minister in the House of Commons to much fanfare.
“I may have seen a draft, I may have commented on it,” said Bunner. “None of my ideas wound up in the final version.”
The Harper government has said it considers the apology to Indian residential school survivors a historic moment.
The apology, however, has recently been called hollow.
Truth and Reconciliation Commission Chair Murray Sinclair said during the release of the commission’s residential school report in June that the prime minister had failed to live up to the promise of the apology. Sinclair said at the time he didn’t believe Harper was committed to true reconciliation.
“We believe the current government is not willing to make good on its claim that it wishes to join with Aboriginal people in Canada in a ‘relationship based on the knowledge of our shared history, a respect for each other and a desire to move forward together’ as promised nine years ago,” said Sinclair, at the time. “Words are not enough.”
The Conservative party campaign did not respond to a request for comment.