Vancouver archbishop apologizes for Catholic Church’s role in residential schools

Editor’s Note: Emotional support or assistance for those who are affected by the residential school system can be found at Indian Residential School Survivors Society toll-free 1 (800) 721-0066 or 24 hr Crisis Line 1 (866) 925-4419.

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Vancouver’s archbishop is apologizing on social media and offering his condolences to the families of the 215 Indigenous children whose remains were recently found in Kamloops.

“In light of the heartbreaking disclosure of the remains of 215 children at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, I am writing to express my deep apology and profound condolences to the families and communities that have been devastated by this horrific news,” Archbishop J. Michael Miller wrote in the first of his 14-part Twitter thread.

“The Church was unquestionably wrong in implementing a government colonialist policy which resulted in devastation for children, families and communities,” he later added.

The Kamloops Indian Residential School opened under Roman Catholic administration in 1890 and operated until 1969.

The federal government has renewed its demand for an apology from the Pope, with Crown Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett saying Catholics should put pressure on the church to do what is right.

One of the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was for the pope to apologize for the role of the Church in a system that saw 150,000 First Nations, Inuit, and Metis children taken from their families and confined in conditions that constituted cultural genocide.

“We call 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,” the call to action reads.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau personally asked the Pope to consider such a gesture during a visit to the Vatican in 2017.

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For his part, Miller pledged the Archdiocese of Vancouver “will be fully transparent” in sharing archives and records of all residential schools, “and strongly urge other Catholic and government organizations to do the same.”

This isn’t the first time Miller has apologized for the pain and suffering endured by children who attended residential schools.

Miller also issued apologies in 2013 and 2015, the former of which was before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

He also extended an offer of mental health support and counselling for family members and others whose loved ones may have been among the remains found at the site in Kamloops last month.

“We will offer to assist with technological and professional support to help the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc and other affected Nations in whatever way they choose to honour, retrieve and remember their deceased children,” he added.

In the wake of the horrific discovery in Kamloops in May, the federal government says it will be informing Indigenous communities on how to access funding to conduct additional searches.

This comes amid growing calls for every former residential school site to be searched across Canada. The United Nations Human Rights Commission is among those urging Canada to do so promptly and exhaustively.

With files from Cormac Mac Sweeney, Hana Mae Nassar, and The Canadian Press

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