Canadian Catholic bishops apologize for residential schools

·2 min read

The Catholic Church is now publicly and officially acknowledging the pain and suffering it has caused to Indigenous people in Canada through the running of the former residential school system, and apologizing for its role in that suffering.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) said on Friday that after months of regular meetings and conversations with Indigenous leaders at national and local levels, they have decided to release a statement on the church’s role in the horrific legacy of Canada’s residential school system.

“Many Catholic religious communities and dioceses participated in this system, which led to the suppression of Indigenous languages, culture and spirituality, failing to respect the rich history, traditions and wisdom of Indigenous Peoples,” CCCB said in their statement.

“We acknowledge the grave abuses that were committed by some members of our Catholic community; physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, cultural, and sexual.”

Over the course of the system's more than hundred-year existence, around 150,000 Indigenous children were taken from their families and forcibly placed in residential schools across the country.

Many survivors have documented incidents of physical, sexual and mental abuse in the schools, and recently unmarked graves have been discovered near a number of former residential school sites in Canada.

In the statement, CCCB also acknowledged that there has been intergenerational damage done to Indigenous families in Canada because of the legacy of residential schools, and said the church is sorry for the damage it has created.

“We also sorrowfully acknowledge the historical and ongoing trauma and the legacy of suffering and challenges faced by Indigenous Peoples that continue to this day,” the statement read.

“Along with those Catholic entities which were directly involved in the operation of the schools and which have already offered their own heartfelt apologies, we, the Catholic Bishops of Canada, express our profound remorse and apologize unequivocally.”

The church says they will now actively work towards reconciliation with Indigenous people in Canada.

“We are fully committed to the process of healing and reconciliation,” CCCB said. “Together with the many pastoral initiatives already underway in dioceses across the country, and as a further tangible expression of this ongoing commitment, we are pledging to undertake fundraising in each region of the country to support initiatives discerned locally with Indigenous partners.”

— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun

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