VANCOUVER, Sept. 1 (Xinhua) -- Reverend Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., spoke to about 70,000 people at a rally here Sunday, voicing support for the rights of aboriginal children.
The 50-year-old King, the youngest child of the late U.S. civil rights leader, was the keynote speaker of Truth and Reconciliation, a five-day event addressing Canada's defunct residential school program for aboriginal children.
During her 20-minute speech, King touched on a variety of topics, including empowerment for the poor, the need for change through a non-violent approach and the responsibility of the corporate community.
"Economic insecurity strangles the physical and the cultural growth of its victims. The family is tortured, corrupted and weakened by economic insufficiency, and so we must ensure that economic empowerment is part of the way forward," she said.
Since 1879, Canada took more than 150,000 aboriginal children from their parents and placed them in residential schools. A program, funded by the government and run by churches, was meant to integrate the children into the mainstream Canadian society.
However, widespread reports of abuse emerged in the absence of parental guidance, turning the program into a disaster that destroyed many native families for generations and leading to its abolishment in 1996.
The Vancouver leg of the government-funded Truth and Reconciliation, one of seven events being held across Canada, aims to address the situation of an estimated 80,000 residential school survivors.
King, who was five-years-old when her father was slain by an assassin's bullet in 1968, praised the event, saying nothing similar had been done in her native America to address the hostilities that exist towards the country's slavery practices that were abolished in the 1860s.
"Struggle is a never-ending process, freedom is never really won. You earn it and you win it in every generation, and that means that there must be persistent, consistent determination to see a new Canada, where all people are respected and included in the culture, in the economic climate, in the forward-moving process," she told the large crowd gathered in heavy rain.
Fifty years on from her father's "I Have a Dream" speech at the march in Washington in 1963, King reflected on his famous words.
"When he said 'I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character,' he was not just speaking about us literally, he was speaking about children and future generations throughout the world."