Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has apologized to former residents of the Huronia Regional Centre in Orillia. 

Wynne says she is sorry for the pain and loss suffered by hundreds of people with developmental disabilities who once lived there.

It was an emotional day at Queens Park. Survivors, their friends, and family packed the public gallery – some wiping away tears as the premier apologized for breaking faith with the very people the province was supposed to protect.

From the start, this apology seemed different. It began with an impromptu visit by the premier to the public gallery. She apologized to former residents of the HRC in person, followed by an apology in public.

“We must look in the eyes of those who have been affected and those they leave behind and say we are sorry,” Wynne says.

Those are three words so many people have waited decades to hear.

“It means a lot it means that we can go forward now,” says Patricia Seth, a former resident.

Marie Slark and Seth were the lead plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit that made this apology possible. Seth said she wasn't sure she'd ever see this day happen

“I believe that we were going to die there because that's what my parents told me,” Seth says.

The lawsuit brought by former residents of the HRC was settled in September for $35 million. Hundreds of survivors came forward detailing years of neglect, abuse and harm. Last week a judge approved the settlement. But for many former residents, the apology was always more important than the money

“The fact that Kathleen Wynne took the time to come up to the gallery and shake our hands and to meet us and then make her announcement followed by the other announcements of support,” says former resident Betty Bond.

PC leader Tim Hudak, NDP leader Andrea Horwath and Simcoe North MPP Garfield Dunlop also spoke on the floor of the legislature; Hudak saying it took too long for this day to happen.

For Slark, she hopes today's apology will allow survivors to move forward

“It means they believe what we said and that hopefully people will understand us better,” Slark says.

Premier Wynne also made reference to the province's promise to properly document the stories of the HRV survivors.

And that is one thing many want to make sure happens as soon as possible. Because this case was settled out of court, survivors didn't get the chance to tell their stories and they want to make sure they are given that opportunity.