Sask. First Nation calls for removal of Catholic priest's statue from cemetery in Lebret

·2 min read
The site where the Lebret Indian Residential School used to stand.  (Ntawnis Piapot/CBC - image credit)
The site where the Lebret Indian Residential School used to stand. (Ntawnis Piapot/CBC - image credit)

WARNING: This story contains details some readers may find distressing.

The Star Blanket Cree Nation is calling on Regina's Archbishop Donald Bolen to remove the statue of a residential school priest.

According to the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN), Father Hugonard was a Roman Catholic priest who founded the Lebret Indian Industrial Residential School, which opened in 1884. The statue of Hugonard was located at the entrance of the school until late 1990.

The statue now sits at Sacred Heart Catholic cemetery in Lebret, Sask.

"There's a member from Peepeekisis — I talked to them yesterday — they want it taken down," said Star Blanket Chief Michael Starr.

"We've been communicating with the local parish and the archbishop … and they're going to move to take that statue away, to take it down."

Ntawnis Piapot/CBC
Ntawnis Piapot/CBC

The call for the statue's removal is backed by the FSIN.

"This statue is a distasteful representation of the residential school era. In no way should that be commemorated," FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron said in a news release.

"Acts of genocide were committed against First Nations children at the hands of church officials."

Commemoration removal calls grow

The call comes in the wake of the preliminary discovery of 215 children's remains at an unmarked burial site at a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.

Calls to remove commemorations of people associated with residential schools have come from across the country in recent weeks.

City councillors in P.E.I.'s capital Charlottetown, voted unanimously recently to remove a statue of Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada's first prime minister, who was instrumental in the creation of Canada's residential school system.

In Regina, Dewdney Pool is set to be renamed Buffalo Meadows Pool. The pool, along with other landmarks in the city, is named after Edgar Dewdney, who was responsible for establishing and overseeing residential schools.

Several First Nations in Canada and in Sask., including Star Blanket Cree Nation, are also hoping to begin searching for graves at residential school sites.

Support is available for anyone affected by the lingering effects of 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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