Catholic Bishop Hopes Residential School Apology Will Improve Indigenous Relations


A leader of Canada’s National Assembly of Catholic Bishops says he hopes an apology for the prejudice suffered at the residential schools could mark a turning point in the Church’s relationship with Indigenous peoples, but some community leaders say that I

A leader of Canada’s National Assembly of Catholic Bishops says he hopes an apology for the wrongs suffered at the residential schools could mark a turning point in the Church’s relations with Indigenous peoples, but some leaders within the community say it remains to be seen whether the expression of remorse will be supported by meaningful action.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops apologized “unequivocally” on Friday for the abuses committed by members of the church community involved in the management of the residential schools.

Vice President Bishop William McGrattan acknowledged that the church has a habit of apologizing, but said the one-page statement ratified at a full meeting of bishops last week reaffirms their commitment to the reconciliation process and describes the “tangible” steps to be taken. extended in the future.

“First Nations people have continually demanded greater responsibility and accountability from the church,” the Bishop of Calgary said on Sunday. “It’s a long journey. And it’s a journey that we hope we can start again and renew this relationship.”

The bishops pledged to provide materials that could help “memorize” students who would be buried in anonymous graves, raise funds for initiatives endorsed by Indigenous leaders, and work to get the Pope to visit Canada.

Assembly of First Nations National Chief RoseAnne Archibald said she welcomed the bishops’ full-hearted apologies, but noted that their promises fall short of the actions demanded by the Indigenous community.

“The words of the apology demonstrate the (Catholic) church’s commitment to the healing journey with First Nations and Indigenous peoples,” Archibald said in a statement Friday. “Only time will tell if concrete actions will follow the words of contrition of the bishops.”

Archibald said she was disappointed the bishops did not pass a resolution to formally invite the Pope to Canada to apologize to residential school survivors, their families and communities – one of the calls for action set out in the 2015 report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

McGrattan has suggested an apology might not be far off as indigenous leaders prepare to travel to the Vatican in December to meet with Pope Francis.

“We expect this delegation to come to Rome to be the first step,” he said. “It’s important, I think, to make sure these steps are done correctly.”

Archibald also expressed reservations about the bishops’ fundraising efforts, noting that the church has raised less than a sixth of a $ 25 million fund pledged for reconciliation and healing under the Convention. Indian Residential Schools Settlement over ten years ago.

McGrattan noted that the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops was not a party to the settlement, but said the “somewhat disappointing” fundraising result underscores the need for a new approach.

The discoveries last spring of hundreds of anonymous graves at the sites of former residential schools prompted the church to release records that could help identify children believed to be buried, often without their families ever being told. their death.

The church has also come under heavy criticism for failing to provide all of the school documents requested by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

McGrattan said many parishes near the burial grounds plan to share sacramental records – such as birth, baptism and death records – to help families bury their loved ones.

But he argued that the church must exercise discretion when it comes to disclosing such documents.

“We just don’t want, in a sense, to allow information to sometimes just be given in a general way, where loved ones have to be the first to receive that and understand the story,” he said. “We’re open to working with them, but just disclosing information in a way that might harm them is also something we don’t want to do.”

Over 150,000 Indigenous children were forced to attend residential schools for over a century when the Canadian government adopted a policy to assimilate Indigenous children, tearing them away from their culture, families and languages.

The Catholic and Anglican churches ran most of the schools where children were subjected to endemic emotional, physical and sexual abuse.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on September 26, 2021.

Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press

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