I am pleased to present the Government of Canada's Response to the Law Commission of Canada's Report: Restoring Dignity: Responding to Child Abuse in Canadian Institutions.

The well-being of children and young people in Canada is a top priority for the Government. We are committed, as the January 2001 Speech from the Throne made clear, to ensuring that this country is a place where children can grow up in safety and where the laws, policies and programs that affect them are grounded in their best interests.

But this commitment also means that we must address the sad and disturbing issue of the physical and sexual abuse of children. Clearly, we need to do all we can to safeguard our children from those who would prey on their vulnerability. At the same time, we must also find responsible, fair and sensitive ways to deal with the past, particularly with the legacy of suffering and betrayal borne by those who were abused in government-run, -funded or -sponsored institutions.

It was for this reason that, a little over three years ago, I called upon the Law Commission of Canada to study the question of how to redress the damage caused by institutional abuse. The Commission took on the task, and set out its findings in Restoring Dignity, a report that provides valuable insight into the complex issues that surround this subject and the search for effective solutions. The report's assessments of possible approaches to meeting the needs of survivors, and its recommendations will inform the Government in its continuing efforts to develop more effective policies and programs.

Our response describes the many ways that the Government of Canada is already working with governments at all levels, and in partnerships with communities, families and voluntary organizations who deal with children, to maintain and improve means to protect children from abuse in institutional care and elsewhere. It also outlines our continued commitment and ongoing efforts to work with survivors and the churches to find responsible, fair and sensitive ways to address the legacy of physical and sexual abuse in Indian residential schools. These initiatives reflect the same principles and concerns noted in the Commission's report, and I consider that an encouraging sign that we are on the right track.

Similarly, the Speech from the Throne indicated our intention to focus on crime prevention as much as punishment, and take measures to consider the needs of victims, ideas that are quite consistent with the Commission's recommendations.

Redressing the harm caused by institutional child abuse in the past and preventing its occurrence in the future is no small task. It will require cooperation and respectful sharing of roles and responsibilities across traditional jurisdictional lines, both within and outside of government, and a willingness to consider new ideas. I thank the members of the Law Commission of Canada for their important contribution, and hope that the report's recommendations and the federal government's response will provide the basis for all parties to work together for the sake of the children, today and tomorrow.

A. Anne McLellan
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada