Catholic churches on P.E.I. offer apologies over residential schools

·3 min read
Father John Molina, pastor at St. Simon and St. Jude Church in Tignish, says children’s shoes were placed in the church on Friday. (Steve Bruce/CBC - image credit)
Father John Molina, pastor at St. Simon and St. Jude Church in Tignish, says children’s shoes were placed in the church on Friday. (Steve Bruce/CBC - image credit)

WARNING: This story contains distressing details.

Charlottetown's Catholic diocese posted a public apology on Friday for all of the Catholic Church's role in Indigenous residential schools and some individual priests on P.E.I. have done the same.

The Catholic Church ran the majority of residential schools in Canada.

Father John Molina, pastor at St. Simon and St. Jude Roman Catholic Church, said he's been reflecting a lot over the past week.

The Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation announced last week that preliminary findings from a survey conducted by a specialist in ground-penetrating radar indicated the remains of around 215 children could be buried on the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission's report on Canada's residential school system details the harsh mistreatment of Indigenous children at the government-funded, church-operated institutions, where ongoing research says at least 4,100 children died in a climate of neglect.

Molina said his reflections include the Church's role running that school, and so many others.

And the fact he's only reflecting on that now.

"I think that is the correct question: Why we are surprised?" said Molina. "Why we didn't know before? With our lack of knowledge, with our lack of action, with my lack of understanding."

'If it is necessary to say in a more official way, that yes we recognize this happened, and offer an apology, why not?' asks Molina.
'If it is necessary to say in a more official way, that yes we recognize this happened, and offer an apology, why not?' asks Molina.(Steve Bruce/CBC)

Molina posted on social media this week that he is personally sorry for the Church's actions.

The Charlottetown diocese issued its own apology online.

"The truth, as painful as it is, needs to be heard," said Father Brian MacDougall, speaking on behalf of the diocese in the written statement. "This is the only way for authentic healing and reconciliation between the Indigenous peoples and the Church.

"I am truly sorry for the harms experienced by the Indigenous children who were forced to attend these schools and their families and communities."

Church's role in the schools

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is urging Catholics across the country to demand action from the Catholic Church.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is urging Catholics across the country to demand action from the Catholic Church.(Steve Bruce/CBC)

Indigenous groups and others have long called for the head of the church — the Pope — to formally apologize.

That still hasn't happened but Molina thinks that it should.

"I think we have to have that conscience. We should ask for mercy. This was part of our lives. It was seen and we need to ask for forgiveness."

The chiefs of P.E.I.'s two First Nations have indicated that they've seen the apologies from some Island priests and the diocese.

They're still thinking through their response and declined to comment just yet.

Support is available for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools, and those who are triggered by the latest reports.

A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.

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