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Canada’s Catholic bishops’ residential school apology


The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation welcomes Canada’s Catholic bishops’ residential school apology

The recent news that the Canadian Conference for Catholic Bishops has issued a formal apology for the Catholic Church’s role in the residential school system was welcomed today by the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR).

As the country nears the start of Truth and Reconciliation Week and the inaugural National Day for Truth and Reconciliation nears, the NCTR is mindful of the need to realize the 94 Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission — only 14 of which have been implemented in the six years since the Commission’s end.

“Every person, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, have a responsibility to fulfill the Calls to Action as we walk the path of Reconciliation together,” said Stephanie Scott, Executive Director of the NCTR.  “It cannot be forgotten that the highest number of atrocities and loss of life have been found in residential schools run by the Catholic Church, and it is time for the Pope to issue an apology.”

Call to Action 58 calls upon the Pope to issue an apology to Survivors, their families, and communities for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children in Catholic-run residential schools.

“People still hesitate to use the word genocide, but for those who lived through it as children, it could not be anything else. The importance of the Pope issuing an apology directly to Survivors on the very land where the atrocities were committed cannot be understated,” said Lila Bruyere of the NCTR’s Survivor Circle. “A genuine commitment towards healing and reconciliation cannot be decided for us, it must begin a dialogue with Survivors.”

Since the uncovering of unmarked graves at several former residential schools from British Columbia to Manitoba, the NCTR has initiated some agreements for record-sharing, including an agreement with the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate to expedite access to critical residential school records. The Oblates operated 48 residential schools in Canada, including the Marieval Indian Residential School in Cowessess First Nation and the Kamloops Indian Residential School where unmarked graves have recently been identified.

“The commitment by the Catholic bishops’ to provide records to help memorialize those buried in unmarked graves is a step forward, but much still needs to be done to ensure these records are provided to the NCTR and to the communities affected,” said Scott. “This work is crucial and will take time, but we will continue to work with Survivors and nations to ensure it happens.”

Indigenous leaders will also be traveling to the Vatican in December to meet with Pope Francis and request a formal papal apology for the role of the Church in residential schools.

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“Ka-kí-kiskéyihtétan óma, namoya kinwés maka aciyowés pohko óma óta ka-hayayak wasétam askihk, ékwa ka-kakwéy miskétan kiskéyihtamowin, iyinísiwin, kistéyitowin, mina nánisitotatowin kakiya ayisiniwak, ékosi óma kakiya ka-wahkotowak.”

Cree Proverb