The TRC Report Online

← Back: Appendix 3: Persons Found Guilty of Abusing Residential Schools Students · Up: Table of contents · Next: Appendix 5: Honorary Witnesses →

Appendix 4: Apologies

This Appendix includes the full texts of apologies and statements concerning residential schools made by parties to the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, and by others who played direct roles in the residential school system.

Apologies in the House of Commons, 2008

In addition to the Government of Canada’s June 11, 2008 apology, the Commission has included the statements made by the leaders of other elected members of Parliament with respect to residential schools in the House of Commons on June 11, 2008.

Statement of Apology – to former students of Indian Residential Schools on behalf of the Government of Canada by The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada

June 11, 2008

The treatment of children in Indian Residential Schools is a sad chapter in our history.

For more than a century, Indian Residential Schools separated over 150,000 Aboriginal children from their families and communities. In the 1870s, the federal government, partly in order to meet its obligation to educate Aboriginal children, began to play a role in the development and administration of these schools. Two primary objectives of the Residential Schools system were to remove and isolate children from the influence of their homes, families, traditions and cultures, and to assimilate them into the dominant culture. These objectives were based on the assumption Aboriginal cultures and spiritual beliefs were inferior and unequal. Indeed, some sought, as it was infamously said, “to kill the Indian in the child.” Today, we recognize that this policy of assimilation was wrong, has caused great harm, and has no place in our country.

One hundred and thirty-two federally-supported schools were located in every province and territory, except Newfoundland, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. Most schools were operated as “joint ventures” with Anglican, Catholic, Presbyterian or United Churches. The Government of Canada built an educational system in which very young children were often forcibly removed from their homes, often taken far from their communities. Many were inadequately fed, clothed and housed. All were deprived of the care and nurturing of their parents, grandparents and communities.

First Nations, Inuit and Métis languages and cultural practices were prohibited in these schools. Tragically, some of these children died while attending residential schools and others never returned home.

The government now recognizes that the consequences of the Indian Residential Schools policy were profoundly negative and that this policy has had a lasting and damaging impact on Aboriginal culture, heritage and language. While some former students have spoken positively about their experiences at residential schools, these stories are far overshadowed by tragic accounts of the emotional, physical and sexual abuse and neglect of helpless children, and their separation from powerless families and communities.

The legacy of Indian Residential Schools has contributed to social problems that continue to exist in many communities today.

It has taken extraordinary courage for the thousands of survivors that have come forward to speak publicly about the abuse they suffered. It is a testament to their resilience as individuals and to the strength of their cultures. Regrettably, many former students are not with us today and died never having received a full apology from the Government of Canada.

The government recognizes that the absence of an apology has been an impediment to healing and reconciliation. Therefore, on behalf of the Government of Canada and all Canadians, I stand before you, in this Chamber so central to our life as a country, to apologize to Aboriginal peoples for Canada’s role in the Indian Residential Schools system.

To the approximately 80,000 living former students, and all family members and communities, the Government of Canada now recognizes that it was wrong to forcibly remove children from their homes and we apologize for having done this. We now recognize that it was wrong to separate children from rich and vibrant cultures and traditions, that it created a void in many lives and communities, and we apologize for having done this. We now recognize that, in separating children from their families, we undermined the ability of many to adequately parent their own children and sowed the seeds for generations to follow, and we apologize for having done this. We now recognize that, far too often, these institutions gave rise to abuse or neglect and were inadequately controlled, and we apologize for failing to protect you. Not only did you suffer these abuses as children, but as you became parents, you were powerless to protect your own children from suffering the same experience, and for this we are sorry.

The burden of this experience has been on your shoulders for far too long. The burden is properly ours as a Government, and as a country. There is no place in Canada for the attitudes that inspired the Indian Residential Schools system to ever again prevail. You have been working on recovering from this experience for a long time and in a very real sense, we are now joining you on this journey.

The Government of Canada sincerely apologizes and asks the forgiveness of the Aboriginal peoples of this country for failing them so profoundly.

In moving towards healing, reconciliation and resolution of the sad legacy of Indian Residential Schools, implementation of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement began on September 19, 2007. Years of work by survivors, communities, and Aboriginal organizations culminated in an agreement that gives us a new beginning and an opportunity to move forward together in partnership. A cornerstone of the Settlement Agreement is the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This Commission presents a unique opportunity to educate all Canadians on the Indian Residential Schools system. It will be a positive step in forging a new relationship between Aboriginal peoples and other Canadians, a relationship based on the knowledge of our shared history, a respect for each other and a desire to move forward together with a renewed understanding that strong families, strong communities and vibrant cultures and traditions will contribute to a stronger Canada for all of us.

God bless all of you. God bless our land.

Statement by The Honourable Stéphane Dion, M.P.

Leader of the Opposition House of Commons, June 11, 2008

Mr. Speaker, today, Canada comes face to face with some of the darkest chapters of its history.

Forced assimilation of Aboriginal peoples was carried out through the residential school system, a system, sadly, older than Confederation itself: schools aimed at “killing the Indian in the child” and eradicating Aboriginal identity; schools built on the removal of children from their families and communities; schools designed to rip out of children their Aboriginal identity, culture, beliefs and language. It was a dehumanizing system that resulted in the worst kinds of abuse.

Government policy destroyed the fabric of family in First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities. Parents and children were made to feel worthless. Parents and grandparents were given no choice. Their children were stolen from them. And only today are we starting to measure the devastating costs of these terrible policies.

Today we live in a reality created by the residential schools system, a present that is haunted by this tragic and painful heritage from those First Nations, Métis and Inuit children, from their families and their communities, a dark and painful heritage that all Canadians must accept as a part of our history.

For too long, Canadian governments chose denial over truth, and when confronted with the weight of truth, chose silence. For too long, Canadian governments refused to acknowledge their direct role in creating the residential schools system and perpetrating their dark and insidious goal of wiping out Aboriginal identity and culture. For too long, Canadian governments chose to ignore the consequences of this tragedy instead of trying to understand them so that the suffering of First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities continues to this day.

Let me quote the damning verdict of the 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples: “With very few exceptions, neither senior departmental officials nor churchmen no r members of Parliament raised their voices against the assumptions that underlay the [residential schools] system or its abusive character. And, of course, the memory did not and has not faded. It has persisted, festered and become a sorrowful monument.”

Today, we lay the first stone in building a new monument, a monument dedicated to truth, reconciliation and a better future.

Today, we representatives of the Canadian people, apologize to those who survived residential schools and to those who died as a result of laws enacted by previous governments and parliaments. By speaking directly to survivors and victims today on the floor of the House of Commons, we apologize to those who died waiting for these words to be spoken and these wrongs acknowledged.

Successive Canadian governments and various churches were complicit in the mental, physical and sexual abuse of thousands of Aboriginal children through the residential schools system. As the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, a party that was in government for more than seventy years in the twentieth century, I acknowledge our role and our shared responsibility in this tragedy. I am deeply sorry. I apologize.

I am sorry that Canada attempted to eradicate your identity and culture by taking you away from your families when you were children and by building a system to punish you for who you were. To First Nations, Inuit and Métis, mothers and fathers, I am so very sorry we took away your children. I am sorry we did not value you as parents. I am sorry we did not trust and respect you.

Today’s apology is about a past that should have been completely different. But it must be also about the future. It must be about collective reconciliation and fundamental changes. It must be about moving forward together, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, into a future based on respect. It is about trying to find in each of us some of the immense courage that we see in the eyes of those who have survived. It is about being inspired by the determination of survivors like National Chief Phil Fontaine and Willie Blackwater who had the courage to speak out and pursue justice. It is about building on the work of former First Nations member of Parliament Gary Merasty, whose motion calling on the government to apologize to survivors of residential schools was unanimously adopted by members of Parliament on May 1, 2007.

If we are to succeed, we need to be firmly committed to the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, chaired by Justice Harry LaForme, which is responsible for investigating all aspects of the residential school system in Canada.

This means that we will have to listen to testimony from victims of physical, emotional and sexual abuse. This means that we will have to understand why and how Canada let residential schools cause deaths and spread illness, tuberculosis and pneumonia. This also means that we will have to get to the bottom of what really happened to the many children who disappeared into unmarked graves.

This means giving a voice to those who were silenced by Canada. This means giving a name to those whose identities were erased. This means showing our respect to those we humiliated. This means understanding the pain of the parents and families who were abandoned and, as a result of our actions, destroyed forever.

We must listen carefully to the victims who testify before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and we must be prepared to hear the Commission recount a very shameful collective past. We must together, as a nation, face the truth to ensure that never again do we have to apologize to another generation, and that never again is such a tragedy allowed to happen.

I say this as I think of the survivors I met last night. One woman remembers clearly her early days growing up in an isolated community with her family. At age seven, her father took her by canoe to a residential school. She has great memories of life with her parents and siblings up to that day. Yet, she has no memory of the two years she spent at the residential school. She survived by erasing all memory of the harsh treatment she endured.

Another survivor, Marion Ironquill-Meadmore, talked about the ten years she spent in a church-run institution. The first lesson she was taught was that her parents were not worthy. After ten years, she left the school feeling lost in both the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal worlds, ill-equipped to return to the traditional lifestyle of her community, and yet never feeling at home elsewhere.

Reconciliation will require a commitment from Canadian society for action. This means ensuring that all Aboriginal Canadians, First Nations, Inuit and Métis alike, share in the bounty and opportunity of this country. This means ensuring that we hear the voices of First Nations, Métis and Inuit people in their own languages, and that these Aboriginal voices and languages continue to enrich the cultural heritage of the world.

We cannot be intimidated by the scale of the challenge or discouraged by the failures of the past. We owe it to all our children to pass along an even better country than we inherited from our parents and we will not do so as long as Aboriginal peoples continue to be left behind.

Four years after the conclusion of the five year Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Canada will mark the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of Confederation. On that anniversary, it is my sincere hope that Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in this country will fulfill the dream voiced in the very building sixty years ago by decorated Aboriginal veteran Thomas Prince, a dream of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people and non-Aboriginal Canadians forging a new and lasting relationship. He said in his own words, “so that they can trust each other and . . . can walk side by side and face this world having faith and confidence in one another.”

Until that day, we humbly offer our apology as the first step on the path to reconciliation and healing.

Merci. Thank you. Meegwetch. Ekosi. Nakurmiik.

Statement by The Honourable Gilles Duceppe, M.P.

Leader of the Bloc Québécois House of Commons, June 11, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to be here to witness—at last—the Canadian government’s apology to the First Nations, Métis and Inuit people who were victims of federally funded residential schools.

Nearly 150,000 people have waited their whole lives for this day of truth and reconciliation; 90,000 of them are still with us. These 90,000 are true survivors. Over one hundred years ago, the Bryce report revealed that the mortality rate in residential schools was close to twenty-five per cent. In the Old Sun’s residential school in Alberta, the death rate was as high as forty-seven per cent. That is why I consider these former students to be survivors.

These 150,000 people were abducted from their mothers and fathers. They were separated from their sisters and brothers. They were forcibly uprooted from their communities and their traditional cultures.

For those who cannot imagine the impact that residential schools had on Aboriginal peoples, picture a small village, a small community. Now picture all of its children, gone. No more children between seven and sixteen playing in the lanes or the woods, filling the hearts of their elders with their laughter and joy. Imagine the ever-present fear of watching their children disappear when they reached school age.

Rumours abounded about what happened to the children. All these years later, it is still horrifying to think of these things. Children were torn from their parents’ arms to be assimilated. They were taken away and raised by people who had but one goal: to “kill the Indian in the child.” Forced to unlearn their languages, these children could no longer communicate with their own parents. All of these things really happened, and they are a part of our collective history.

Between 1934 and 1962, six residential schools were established in Quebec: two in Cree territory, one in Algonquin territory, one in Attikamek territory and two in Innu territory. Just like residential schools everywhere, these ones left wounds caused by abuse, ill treatment and neglect.

Roméo Saganash, himself a survivor of residential schools, told me the story of his brother, who died within a year of entering the school. His family never found out why he died, and it took forty years—forty long years—for his mother to find the place where he had been buried. It is impossible to erase these indelible scars, impossible to heal the souls shattered by these memories.

Yet this apology is necessary. It is necessary but not sufficient. As Roméo Saganash says, “An apology, once made, is only as good as the actions that come after it.” For those who lost their childhood in the residential schools, the best apology consists of real action that will allow their children and grandchildren to hope in the future. This means that the government must take real action now.

For example, the government is not spending enough to help Aboriginal children reach their full potential. For example, when problems occur that affect children, the government recommends that the children be taken out of their community for their own protection. In a way, the government is repeating the mistakes of the past.

For more than a year, we and the First Nations of Quebec have been calling for more money for First Nations so that children can remain in their communities. Does the government not think that enough Aboriginal children were removed from their communities in the past?

Here is another example: the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador has been waiting for over a year and a half for a response from the government so that it can implement its “10,000 possibilities” project. This ten-year plan is aimed at building 10,000 housing units, helping 10,000 young people graduate from high school, and creating 10,000 jobs.

If the Prime Minister’s apology is sincere, let him take real action. We will support him.

Finally, there is this disgrace: the government’s refusal to endorse the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I am very proud that the Bloc Québécois has given clear support to this draft declaration. By agreeing to endorse the declaration, the Prime Minister can send a clear message to Aboriginal peoples that he has learned from past mistakes and is making a solemn promise to the victims that their children and grandchildren will have respect and dignity.

I am speaking to you, the Aboriginal representatives present on the floor of the House and watching from the gallery. All the members of the Bloc Québécois join me in reaching out to you so that, together, we can build a better future for our children and grandchildren. That requires a relationship of mutual respect that can only be forged between nations.

On behalf of the Bloc Québécois, I extend a sincere apology for the past, and I invite us to build the future together, as nations.

Statement by The Honourable Jack Layton, M.P.

Leader of the New Democratic Party House of Commons, June 11, 2008

Mr. Speaker, today, I rise in this House to add the voice of the New Democratic Party to the profound apology being offered humbly to First Nations, Métis and Inuit on behalf of the Canadian people.

I wish to acknowledge and honour the Elders who are with us here today and are participating in this ceremony, the length and breadth of this land at this very moment.

I wish to pay tribute to the First Nations, Métis and Inuit leaders who are here with us and to all of those who are guiding their communities through this difficult, emotional, momentous and hope-filled day.

I wish to recognize the children, here in this chamber today and watching at home in gatherings across the land, who also bear witness to the legacy of the residential schools.

Most importantly, I want to say to the survivors of the residential schools, some of whom have joined us here today, we are sorry for what has taken place.

Today we mark a very significant moment for Canada. It is the moment when we, as a Parliament, as a country, take responsibility for one of the most shameful periods in our history. It is the moment for us to finally apologize. It is the moment when we will start to build a shared future, a future based on equality and built on mutual respect and truth.

It was this Parliament that enacted, 151 years ago, the racist legislation that established the residential schools. This Parliament chose to treat First Nations, Métis and Inuit people as not equally human. It set out to kill the Indian in the child. That choice was horribly wrong. It led to incredible suffering. It denied First Nations, Métis and Inuit the basic freedom to choose how to live their lives. For those wrongs that we have committed, we are truly sorry.

Our choice denied their children the love and nurturing of their own families and communities. It denied children the pride and self-esteem that come from learning one’s heritage, language, culture and traditions. In addition to these wounds, they experienced our neglect, inadequate health care, mistreatment and sexual abuse, all of which harmed so many children and even killed some. Because of Canada’s policies, those who survived learned to be ashamed of who they are. For these terrible actions, we are sorry.

The legacy of residential schools casts a shadow over our country. It tore apart families and communities for generations, and this continues to be felt, and felt very personally.

Nearly every First Nations person of my age that I have met is a survivor. Many are also the children of survivors. One of those children told me about her mother, a Cree from northern Quebec, who had 12 of her 14 children taken from her. Her brother died in a residential school, but their mother was never told why or how. She was never told where her son was buried. She did not have the right to pay tribute to his life or his death. She could not mourn or say her final goodbyes to her child, as every mother should.

Many years later, her daughter was working in northern Ontario and she happened to mention the story of her brother to a local. He said, “I know where your brother is buried.” They went to the graveyard and he pointed to a spot beside a headstone, and said, “Your brother is buried here, unmarked.”

The pain inflicted by the residential schools is deeply felt by these children, who were forced to attend, and by the parents who had their children stolen from them. It is still felt in First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities across the country. The destruction of family and community ties, the psychological wounds, the loss of language and culture, and substandard education all led to widespread poverty, which remains rampant in First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities today. The horrors of the residential schools continue to harm even those who never experienced them personally.

There can be no equivocation. The laws consciously enacted in this House put the residential schools into place and kept them going for many years. It is in this House that we must start the process of reconciliation. That is why we are here together today and why we are here together to say we are sorry. This is a crucial first step.

However, reconciliation must be built through positive steps that show respect and restore trust. This apology must not be an end; it must be a beginning.

What is needed is a commitment to never again allow such a travesty of justice and transgression against equality to occur. It begins with officially recognizing the rights and cultures of First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples by signing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

But reconciliation also means that, as a Parliament and as a country, we must take action to address the terrible inequality faced by First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities. We can start by restoring the nation-to-nation relationship between the Government of Canada and First Nations, Métis and the Inuit. Even as we speak here today, thousands of Aboriginal children are without proper schools or clean water, adequate food, their own bed, good health care, safety, comfort, land and rights.

We can no longer throw up our hands and say, “There’s nothing we can do.” Taking responsibility and working toward reconciliation means saying, “We must act together to resolve this.”

Let us reverse the horrific and shameful statistics afflicting Aboriginal populations, now: the high rates of poverty, suicide, the poor or having no education, overcrowding, crumbling housing, and unsafe drinking water. Let us make sure that all survivors of the residential schools receive the recognition that is due to them.

We must make a serious, collective commitment. All of us together—First Nations, Métis and Inuit, Canadians who have been here for generations and new Canadians as well—must build a future based on fairness, equality and respect.

Meegwetch. Ekosi. Nakurmiik.

Church Apologies, 1986–2015

In this section the Commission includes the institutional apologies from the church parties to the IRSSA. Of the several Roman Catholic statements, including a number from bishops and groups of bishops, the Commission chose to include those of the Catholic religious orders whose members worked in the schools. Schools run by the Mennonite or Anabaptist community of churches were added to the Settlement Agreement after it came into force. A statement by Anabaptist church leaders therefore is also included.

Apologies made on behalf of The United Church of Canada

Apology to First Nations Peoples

The Right Reverend Robert Smith, Moderator The United Church of Canada, 1986

Long before my people journeyed to this land your people were here, and you received from your Elders an understanding of creation and of the Mystery that surrounds us all that was deep, and rich, and to be treasured.

We did not hear you when you shared your vision. In our zeal to tell you of the good news of Jesus Christ we were closed to the value of your spirituality.

We confused Western ways and culture with the depth and breadth and length and height of the gospel of Christ.

We imposed our civilization as a condition for accepting the gospel.

We tried to make you be like us and in so doing we helped to destroy the vision that made you what you were. As a result you, and we, are poorer and the image of the Creator in us is twisted, blurred, and we are not what we are meant by God to be.

We ask you to forgive us and to walk together with us in the Spirit of Christ so that our peoples may be blessed and God’s creation healed.

Apology to Former Students of United Church Indian Residential Schools, and to Their Families and Communities

The Right Reverend Bill Phipps, Moderator The United Church of Canada, 1998

From the deepest reaches of your memories, you have shared with us your stories of suffering from our church’s involvement in the operation of Indian Residential Schools. You have shared the personal and historic pain that you still bear, and you have been vulnerable yet again. You have also shared with us your strength and wisdom born of the life-giving dignity of your communities and traditions and your stories of survival.

In response to our church’s commitment to repentance, I spoke these words of apology on behalf of the General Council Executive on Tuesday, October 27, 1998:

As Moderator of The United Church of Canada, I wish to speak the words that many people have wanted to hear for a very long time. On behalf of The United Church of Canada, I apologize for the pain and suffering that our church’s involvement in the Indian Residential School system has caused. We are aware of some of the damage that this cruel and ill-conceived system of assimilation has perpetrated on Canada’s First Nations peoples. For this we are truly and most humbly sorry.

To those individuals who were physically, sexually, and mentally abused as students of the Indian Residential Schools in which The United Church of Canada was involved, I offer you our most sincere apology. You did nothing wrong. You were and are the victims of evil acts that cannot under any circumstances be justified or excused.

We know that many within our church will still not understand why each of us must bear the scar, the blame for this horrendous period in Canadian history. But the truth is, we are the bearers of many blessings from our ancestors, and therefore, we must also bear their burdens.

Our burdens include dishonouring the depths of the struggles of First Nations peoples and the richness of your gifts. We seek God’s forgiveness and healing grace as we take steps toward building respectful, compassionate, and loving relationships with First Nations peoples.

We are in the midst of a long and painful journey as we reflect on the cries that we did not or would not hear, and how we have behaved as a church. As we travel this difficult road of repentance, reconciliation, and healing, we commit ourselves to work toward ensuring that we will never again use our power as a church to hurt others with attitudes of racial and spiritual superiority.

We pray that you will hear the sincerity of our words today and that you will witness the living out of our apology in our actions in the future.^1

Apology of the Anglican Church of Canada

A message from the Primate, Archbishop Michael Peers, to the National Native Convocation, Minaki, Ontario, August 6, 1993

My Brothers and Sisters:

Together here with you I have listened as you have told your stories of the residential schools.

I have heard the voices that have spoken of pain and hurt experienced in the schools, and of the scars which endure to this day.

I have felt shame and humiliation as I have heard of suffering inflicted by my people, and as I think of the part our church played in that suffering.

I am deeply conscious of the sacredness of the stories that you have told and I hold in the highest honour those who have told them.

I have heard with admiration the stories of people and communities who have worked at healing, and I am aware of how much healing is needed.

I also know that I am in need of healing, and my own people are in need of healing, and our church is in need of healing. Without that healing, we will continue the same attitudes that have done such damage in the past.

I also know that healing takes a long time, both for people and for communities.

I also know that it is God who heals, and that God can begin to heal when we open ourselves, our wounds, our failures and our shame to God. I want to take one step along that path here and now.

I accept and I confess before God and you, our failures in the residential schools. We failed you. We failed ourselves. We failed God.

I am sorry, more than I can say, that we were part of a system which took you and your children from home and family.

I am sorry, more than I can say, that we tried to remake you in our image, taking from you your language and the signs of your identity.

I am sorry, more than I can say, that in our schools so many were abused physically, sexually, culturally and emotionally.

On behalf of the Anglican Church of Canada, I present our apology.

I do this at the desire of those in the Church like the National Executive Council, who know some of your stories and have asked me to apologize.

I do this in the name of many who do not know these stories.

And I do this even though there are those in the church who cannot accept the fact that these things were done in our name.

As soon as I am home, I shall tell all the bishops what I have said, and ask them to co-operate with me and with the National Executive Council in helping this healing at the local level. Some bishops have already begun this work.

I know how often you have heard words which have been empty because they have not been accompanied by actions. I pledge to you my best efforts, and the efforts of our church at the national level, to walk with you along the path of God’s healing.

The work of the Residential Schools Working Group, the video, the commitment and the effort of the Special Assistants to the Primate for this work, the grants available for healing conferences, are some signs of that pledge, and we shall work for others.

This is Friday, the day of Jesus’ suffering and death. It is the anniversary of the first atomic bomb at Hiroshima, one of the most terrible injuries ever inflicted by one people on another.

But even atomic bombs and Good Friday are not the last word. God raised Jesus from the dead as a sign that life and wholeness are the everlasting and unquenchable purpose of God.

Thank you for listening to me.

Statements of The Presbyterian Church in Canada

The Confession of The Presbyterian Church in Canada as adopted by the General Assembly, June 9, 1994

The Holy Spirit, speaking in and through Scripture, calls The Presbyterian Church in Canada to confession. This confession is our response to the word of God. We understand our mission and ministry in new ways in part because of the testimony of Aboriginal peoples.

  1. We, the 120th General Assembly of The Presbyterian Church in Canada, seeking the guidance of the Spirit of God, and aware of our own sin and shortcomings, are called to speak to the Church we love. We do this, out of new understandings of our past not out of any sense of being superior to those who have gone before us, nor out of any sense that we would have done things differently in the same context. It is with humility and in great sorrow that we come before God and our Aboriginal brothers and sisters with our confession.

  2. We acknowledge that the stated policy of the Government of Canada was to assimilate Aboriginal peoples to the dominant culture, and that The Presbyterian Church in Canada co-operated in this policy. We acknowledge that the roots of the harm we have done are found in the attitudes and val ues of western European colonialism, and the assumption that what was not yet moulded in our image was to be discovered and exploited. As part of that policy we, with other churches, encouraged the government to ban some important spiritual practices through which Aboriginal peoples experienced the presence of the creator God. For the Church’s complicity in this policy we ask forgiveness.

  3. We recognize that there were many members of The Presbyterian Church in Canada who, in good faith, gave unstintingly of themselves in love and compassion for their Aboriginal brothers and sisters. We acknowledge their devotion and commend them for their work. We recognize that there were some who, with prophetic insight, were aware of the damage that was being done and protested, but their efforts were thwarted. We acknowledge their insight. For the times we did not support them adequately nor hear their cries for justice, we ask forgiveness.

  4. We confess that The Presbyterian Church in Canada presumed to know better than Aboriginal peoples what was needed for life. The Church said of our Aboriginal brothers and sisters, “If they could be like us, if they could think like us, talk like us, worship like us, sing like us, and work like us, they would know God and therefore would have life abundant.” In our cultural arrogance we have been blind to the ways in which our own understanding of the Gospel has been culturally conditioned, and because of our insensitivity to Aboriginal cultures, we have demanded more of the Aboriginal people than the Gospel requires, and have thus misrepresented Jesus Christ who loves all peoples with compassionate, suffering love that all may come to God through him. For the Church’s presumption we ask forgiveness.

  5. We confess that, with the encouragement and assistance of the Government of Canada, The Presbyterian Church in Canada agreed to take the children of Aboriginal peoples from their own homes and place them in residential schools. In these schools, children were deprived of their traditional ways, which were replaced with Euro-Canadian customs that were helpful in the process of assimilation. To carry out this process, The Presbyterian Church in Canada used disciplinary practices which were foreign to Aboriginal peo ples, and open to exploitation in physical and psychological punishment beyond any Christian maxim of care and discipline. In a setting of obedience and acquiescence there was opportunity for sexual abuse, and some were so abused. The effect of all this, for Aboriginal peoples, was the loss of cultural identity and the loss of a secure sense of self. For the Church’s insensitivity we ask forgiveness.

  6. We regret that there are those whose lives have been deeply scarred by the effects of the mission and ministry of The Presbyterian Church in Canada. For our Church we ask forgiveness of God. It is our prayer that God, who is merci ful, will guide us in compassionate ways towards helping them to heal.

  7. We ask, also, for forgiveness from Aboriginal peoples. What we have heard we acknowledge. It is our hope that those whom we have wronged with a hurt too deep for telling will accept what we have to say. With God’s guidance our Church will seek opportunities to walk with Aboriginal peoples to find healing and wholeness together as God’s people.

Statement on Aboriginal Spiritual Practices, The Presbyterian Church in Canada, 2015

First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, before any encounter with Christianity, found meaning, spiritual benefit and the presence of the creator through life-giving Indigenous spiritual practices that have deeply rooted traditions.

Through the churches’ participation in the residential school system, The Presbyterian Church in Canada contributed to the banning of those traditions. The Presbyterian Church in Canada presumed to know better and in our cultural arrogance tried to suppress practices whose value we were then incapable of perceiving. We acknowledge in a spirit of repentance our role in failing to recognize and respect these spiritual traditions and practices. The church believes that faith and devotion, reverence for life, truth and goodness coexist both in and outside of our own Christian experience.

As part of the churches’ commitment to a journey of truth and reconciliation, The Presbyterian Church in Canada has learned that many facets of Aboriginal traditional spiritualities bring life and oneness with creation. Accepting this has sometimes been a challenge for The Presbyterian Church in Canada. We are now aware that there is a wide variety of Aboriginal spiritual practices and we acknowledge that it is for our church to continue in humility to learn the deep significance of these practices and to respect them and the Aboriginal elders who are the keepers of their traditional sacred truths.

Some of our congregations have been blessed with experiencing various traditional Aboriginal practices when Aboriginal elders, Aboriginal members of our church and Indigenous people visited our congregations as guests, and graciously shared some of these practices and the traditions that give rise to them.

These practices are received as gifts and serve to enrich our congregations. Ceremonies and traditions such as smudging, the circle/medicine wheel, drum songs and drumming, and Indigenous wisdom teachings have been some of the practices our church has experienced as gifts from Aboriginal brothers and sisters. We acknowledge and respect both Aboriginal members of The Presbyterian Church in Canada who wish to bring traditional practices into their congregations and those Aboriginal members who are not comfortable or willing to do so. The church must be a community where all are valued and respected.

It is not for The Presbyterian Church in Canada to validate or invalidate Aboriginal spiritualities and practices. Our church, however, is deeply respectful of these traditions. We acknowledge them as important spiritual practices through which Aboriginal peoples experience the presence of the creator God. In this spirit The Presbyterian Church in Canada is committed to walking with Aboriginal people in seeking shared truth that will lead to restoring right relations.

Statements from Roman Catholic orders of men and women religious who worked in residential schools

An Apology to the First Nations of Canada by the Oblate Conference of Canada

Reverend Doug Crosby, Oblates of Mary Immaculate, President of the Oblate Conference of Canada on behalf of the 1200 Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate living and ministering in Canada, July 24, 1991.

The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Canada wish, after one hundred and fifty years of being with and ministering to the Native people of Canada, to offer an apology for certain aspects of that presence and ministry.

A number of historical circumstances make this moment in history most opportune for this.

First, there is a symbolic reason. Next year, 1992, marks the five hundredth anniversary of the arrival of Europeans on the shores of America. As large scale celebrations are being prepared to mark this occasion, the Oblates of Canada wish, through this apology, to show solidarity with many Native people in Canada whose history has been adversely affected by this event. Anthropological and sociological insights of the late 20th century have shown how deep, unchallenged, and damaging was the naïve cultural, ethnic, linguistic, and religious superiority complex of Christian Europe when its peoples met and interrelated with the Aboriginal people of North America.

As well, recent criticisms of Indian residential schools and the exposure of instances of physical and sexual abuse within these schools call for such an apology.

Given this history, Native peoples and other groups alike are realizing that a certain healing needs to take place before a new and more truly cooperative phase of history can occur. This healing cannot however happen until some very complex, long-standing, and deep historical issues have been addressed.

It is in this context, and with a renewed pledge to be in solidarity with Native peoples in a common struggle for justice that we, the Oblates of Canada, offer this apology:

We apologize for the part we played in the cultural, ethnic, linguistic, and religious imperialism that was part of the mentality with which the peoples of Europe first met the Aboriginal peoples and which consistently has lurked behind the way the Native peoples of Canada have been treated by civil governments and by the churches. We were, naively, part of this mentality and were, in fact, often a key player in its implementation. We recognize that this mentality has, from the beginning, and ever since, continually threatened the cultural, linguistic, and religious traditions of the Native peoples.

We recognize that many of the problems that beset Native communities today— high unemployment, alcoholism, family breakdown, domestic violence, spiraling suicide rates, lack of healthy self-esteem—are not so much the result of personal failure as they are the result of centuries of systemic imperialism. Any people stripped of its traditions as well as of its pride falls victim to precisely these social ills. For the part that we played, however inadvertent and naïve that participation might have been, in the setting up and maintaining of a system that stripped others of not only their lands but also of their cultural, linguistic, and religious traditions we sincerely apologize.

Beyond this regret for having been part of a system which, because of its historical privilege and assumed superiority did great damage to the Native peoples of Canada, we wish to apologize more specifically for the following:

In sympathy with recent criticisms of Native Residential Schools, we wish to apologize for the part we played in the setting up and the maintaining of those schools. We apologize for the existence of the schools themselves, recognizing that the biggest abuse was not what happened in the schools, but that the schools themselves happened—that the primal bond inherent within families was violated as a matter of policy, that children were usurped from their natural communities, and that, implicitly and explicitly, these schools operated out of the premise that European languages, traditions, and religious practices were superior to Native languages, traditions, and religious practices. The residential schools were an attempt to assimilate Aboriginal peoples and we played an important role in the unfolding of this design. For this we sincerely apologize.

We wish to apologize in a very particular way for the instances of physical and sexual abuse that occurred in those schools. We reiterate that the bigger issue of abuse was the existence of the schools themselves but we wish to publicly acknowledge that there were instances of individual physical and sexual abuse. Far from attempting to defend or rationalize these cases of abuse in any way, we wish to state publicly that we acknowledge that they were inexcusable, intolerable, and a betrayal of trust in one of its most serious forms. We deeply, and very specifically, apologize to every victim of such abuse and we seek help in searching for means to bring about healing.

Finally, we wish to apologize as well for our past dismissal of many of the riches of Native religious tradition. We broke some of your peace pipes and we considered some of your sacred practices as pagan and superstitious. This, too, had its origins in the colonial mentality, our European superiority complex which was grounded in a particular view of history. We apologize for this blindness and disrespect.

One qualification is, however, in order. As we publicly acknowledge a certain blindness in our past, we wish, too, to publicly point to some of the salient reasons for this. We do this, not as a way of subtly excusing ourselves or of rationalizing in any way so as to denigrate this apology, but as a way of more fully exposing the reasons for our past blindness and, especially, as a way of honouring, despite their mistakes, those many men and women, Native and white alike, who gave their lives and their very blood in a dedication that was most sincere and heroic.

Hindsight makes for 20-20 vision and judging the past from the insights of the present is an exact and often cruel science. When Christopher Columbus set sail for the Americas, with the blessing of the Christian Church, Western civilization lacked the insights it needed to appreciate what Columbus met upon the shores of America. The cultural, linguistic, and ethical traditions of Europe were caught up in the naïve belief that they were inherently superior to those found in other parts of the world. Without excusing this superiority complex, it is necessary to name it. Sincerity alone does not set people above their place in history. Thousands of persons operated out of this mentality and gave their lives in dedication to an ideal that, while sincere in its intent, was, at one point, naively linked to a certain cultural, religious, linguistic, and ethnic superiority complex. These men and women sincerely believed that their vocations and actions were serving both God and the best interests of the Native peoples to whom they were ministering. History has, partially, rendered a cruel judgment on their efforts, showing how, despite much sincerity and genuine dedication, their actions were sometimes naïve and disrespectful in that they violated the sacred and cherished traditions of others. Hence, even as we apologize for some of the effects of their actions, we want at the same time to affirm their sincerity, the goodness of their intent, and the goodness, in many cases, of their actions.

Recognizing that within every sincere apology there is implicit the promise of conversion to a new way of acting, we, the Oblates of Canada, wish to pledge ourselves to a renewed relationship with Native peoples which, while very much in line with the sincerity and intent of our past relationship, seeks to move beyond past mistakes to a new level of respect and mutuality. Hence…

We renew the commitment we made 150 years ago to work with and for Native peoples. In the spirit of our founder, Blessed Eugene De Mazenod, and the many dedicated missionaries who have served in Native communities during these 150 years, we again pledge to Native peoples our service. We ask help in more judiciously discerning what forms that service might take today. More specifically, we pledge ourselves to the following:

An Apology to the First Nations of Canada by the Missionary Oblates of Canada

Ken Forster, Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Provincial of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Lacombe Canada, March 29th 2014

In 1991, on the eve of the 500th anniversary of the colonization of the Americas, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate made a public apology to the Native Peoples of Canada. Today in the context of this final National Truth and Reconciliation event, the Oblates of Lacombe Province would like to renew this apology and pledge once more our desire to journey in solidarity and mutual respect with all the First Peoples of Canada.

Through the first centuries of contact, the relationship of non-native to First Nations People was deeply wounded by the settlers’ attitude of cultural and religious superiority and the imposition of colonial power.

For the last many decades the Indian Residential Schools have come to epitomize the harm of that colonial relationship. The good that came out of the Schools came at an unbearable cost to the First Nations. The primal bond inherent within families was violated as a matter of policy, as children were separated from their natural communities. These schools operated out of the premise that European languages, traditions, and religious practices were superior to those of First Nations and as such contributed to the domination of aboriginal culture, language and the integrity of the family itself. We missionaries played a significant role in the implementation of this flawed policy. For this we sincerely apologize.

The residential environment made children very vulnerable. We wish to apologize for failing to protect the children in our care, and for the times when we placed the reputation of the institution above the well-being of the students. The significant number of incidents of abuse has shocked society and the church. These acts are inexcusable, intolerable, and a profound betrayal of trust. We deeply, and very specifically, apologize to every victim of such abuse.

As missionaries, with a desire to serve, we commit ourselves to that deeper service Jesus Christ modeled for all Christians when he washed the feet of his disciples. Our hope for the journey forward is that we may serve not from a place of ‘above’ or ‘below’, but from a place of friendship, of equality, and of respect.

As a gesture of reconciliation, we, Missionaries Oblates of Mary Immaculate, would like to place a copy of these words along with the Apology of 1991 into your care.

Statement on behalf of Congregations of Women Religious involved in the Indian Residential Schools of Canada

Sister Marie Zarowny, Sisters of Saint Ann, at the General House of Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Rome, April 30, 2009. The statement was delivered by Marie Zarowny, on behalf of the Congregations of Women Religious involved in the Indian Residential Schools of Canada, to a delegation of Aboriginal leaders, residential school Survivors, and Roman Catholic officials in Rome on April 30, 2009.

Father Guillermo Steckling and Members of the Oblate General Council, thank you for welcoming us to your home and for providing me with this opportunity to say a few words. National Chief Phil Fontaine, Elders, Chiefs and Representatives of Canada’s First Nations, Inuit and Métis, especially those of you who are former residents of the schools; Archbishop Pettipas and other representatives of the Catholic Entities; Ambassador Anne Leahy; other distinguished guests.

As I begin, I want to say, as I did earlier today, what an honour it has been for me to have shared the profound experiences of these last few days with you. I will carry this experience with me for as long as I live and will speak of its various meanings, some already spoken today and others yet to be discovered as we continue to contemplate and ponder its significance.

As we draw to a close the formal part of these days together, it is a privilege for me to speak on behalf of the Congregations of Women Religious that provided, over a long period of time, hundreds of their members to teach and care for children in the Residential Schools.

Some of these institutions, especially in the far north were started to care for orphans when almost all the adults of entire villages died as a result of various flu epidemics. We were invited to help the children, at least, survive. In these instances and in the schools themselves in other parts of the country, we were motivated by a sincere desire to further the education, health and Christian formation of the Aboriginal peoples in such a way that they would be able to achieve their rightful place in an evolving Canadian society. We wanted them to grow into personal fullness, to be proud of themselves and of their giftedness and to be able to live with a sense of innate dignity. For many students, however, this was far from their experience. How could our good intentions have had such tragic consequences!

We were products of the times in which we lived, with the teaching methods, cultural misunderstandings, social attitudes and theology of those times. As well, some of our members suffered from emotional problems that they took out on the children.

We now know that the residential school system itself, initiated by the federal government and in which we participated, was racist and discriminatory, bringing about a form of cultural oppression and personal shame that has had a lasting effect not only on those who attended the schools but also on subsequent generations. We carry immense sorrow for having contributed to this tragedy, a sorrow that is not momentary but that stays within our hearts.

We also now know that many children in our care suffered unspeakable abuse and mistreatment. Some Sisters have been accused of actual abuse; many others have been accused of not protecting those in their care. We are deeply grieved by all these revelations. Good intentions and genuine love on the part of many of our Sisters for the children in our care were not enough and in fact were often not experienced as such.

At the same time, many of our members formed lasting friendships with the children in their care; we have all been enriched by these relationships and are grateful for them.

Our priorities in working on the settlement agreement were that suffering be acknowledged, justice be done through adequate compensation and that there be a way for us as women religious to both contribute to and to enter into a process of healing and reconciliation with you.

Throughout the last 150 years or so, our involvement in the schools has not been our only ministry with First Nations. We have served as pastoral workers and counselors on reserves and other First Nations communities: teaching, providing health care, visiting families, helping with religious education, supporting those in leadership of various kinds, and participating in community events. Although our numbers are small now and we have withdrawn from several communities, to the extent we are able and at your invitation, we commit ourselves to continue to live and serve in your midst.

Institutionally we commit ourselves to use what influence we have to continue to support your efforts to achieve justice within Canada, including adequate housing, education, health care, healing programs and land rights. We also commit ourselves to enhance our efforts to foster awareness and understanding between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians and to diminish in some way persistent attitudes of racism and superiority.

Personally, I commit myself, to the extent I am able, to assist the continuing process of creating a new future in Canada and the Church, one in which all peoples are appreciated and live with dignity and mutual respect.

And now a more personal word to National Chief, Phil Fontaine: You have been a brother to us, Phil, working with us each step of the way to first help us understand the depths of hurt experienced by you and your people and then to walk with us to new understandings. This has not been an easy journey for you or for us but we have travelled it together. As a result our bonds with you and your people have deepened. You have also consistently expressed the desire of many of your people that we continue to be in relationship with you, and you have helped that to happen. We thank you for all the ways you have assisted in this process and we pray our Creator’s abundant blessing upon you.

In closing, I return to an earlier comment. Each of our involvements, whether educational, political, spiritual or other, has resulted in deep and lasting friendships between our Sisters and many First Nations people. We treasure these friendships and look forward to them deepening in the years to come.

Statement of Reconciliation, The Jesuits in English Canada

Delivered by Father Winston Rye, S.J., at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Québec National Event, Montreal, April 25, 2013

Let me begin today by first acknowledging all Survivors of the Residential Schools and their families, the Elders present, the Commissioners, Church and community leaders and members of the wider communities. We thank you sincerely for the invitation to share in this important event.

The Jesuits in English Canada want to take this special occasion to honour the Survivors. It has taken great courage, strength and generosity for you to come forward and to share your story with all of us here, a story of loss, grief, hardship, but also of resistance and healing.

We also greet the children and grandchildren of the Survivors, who suffered in turn from their parent’s trauma in the Residential Schools and learned from their character and bravery.

We come today to pay tribute to the individuals who attended the Spanish Residential School; both boys and girls. We recognize and embrace the students who attended the St. Peter Claver Residential School for Boys, St. Charles Garnier Collegiate and St. Joseph’s School for Girls, some of whom are with us today in the audience.

This gathering is a symbol of hope and a reminder to all of us that such abuse must never happen again.

I stand here on behalf of the Jesuits to say that we are truly, deep within our hearts, sorry for what we did to injure individuals, families and communities by participating in the Canadian Residential School system.

When the Jesuits first met with First Nations peoples 400 years ago, we recognized the greatness of your traditional spiritual beliefs. That openness was lost in the 20th Century.

The legacy of the Residential Schools is a terrible cloud on our legacy of friendship. Today, we are relearning how to trust each other in a deeper understanding of our own faith through the lessons that your Elders have taught us.

It has been a struggle for the Jesuits to recognize that we became an active part of a system aimed at the assimilation of your traditional culture. It was not until it was much too late that we realized the harm that we had done.

The Jesuits are proud to still count many of our former students as friends and colleagues. We are grateful for the forgiveness and understanding that you have extended to us over the years. We humbly thank you for sticking with us and continuing to welcome us in your homes and communities.

We come to celebrate the achievements of our students. We recognize that what they achieved as professionals, athletes and community leaders was not because of our efforts at the school—but through their own strength of character and love of knowledge.

We also come to acknowledge the students who were brave enough to confront us about our role in the Residential School system some thirty years ago. We treated you as dissenters and malcontents rather than listening to what you had to tell us.

Through litigation and lawsuits, we learned about harsh conditions, poor food, brutal punishment and horrible incidents of sexual molestation. You turned to the courts because the Jesuits turned away from you.

As educators, we have been shocked by stories of bullying, inadequate clothing, strapping and beatings for minor offences. Our school harbored individuals who molested or abused students. Bed wetters were tormented by older students and staff alike. The food was not fit for the needs of growing boys and girls.

Children who were much too young were taken from the love of their families and placed under the guidance of men and women who had little training and less compassion.

Most of all, we have heard stories of the inherent unfairness of the system. Students were given the strap for things that they did not do. Bullies were rewarded and victims punished. Abuse was not disclosed because there was no one who would hear a student’s cry for help.

We are still struggling with how it could possibly have happened. We realize that the abuse might have been uncovered and punished many years ago, if there had been someone that the students could turn to. We failed in putting the needs and interests of the Jesuit priests and brothers ahead of the welfare of our students.

We vow that this will never be “the way things are” ever again.

Amongst the heartache, we have delighted in stories about how students outwitted their teachers and kept their spirit alive through practical jokes and ingenuity. Our students understood their instructors and their human frailties so much better than their teachers understood them. They fought against the unfairness of the system with humor and good nature.

We have heard of brave students who were resourceful enough to set out for their home communities. We are ashamed of the harsh punishments that they received when they were brought back by the authorities.

We offer a sincere prayer of thankfulness that no young lives were lost at our school because students ran away.

We have learned from these harsh lessons and have become stronger from your example. To the students who have defended us and taken our part, we are truly grateful. We will strive to prove ourselves worthy of the respect and love that you have shown your teachers.

We are deeply grateful to the communities that have continued to welcome us as pastors and as friends in the years since the Spanish Residential Schools closed. We are humbled by your love and forgiveness. We have never had to beg for reconciliation; you have offered it to us freely for so many years by your example.

We ask for your forgiveness for any role that our school may have played in sowing distrust and division between Catholic and Protestant families. It is not enough to decry the narrow mindedness of the times. By teaching intolerance in our schools, we sowed division where it had never existed.

Many of you have asked when the reconciliation between the churches will occur. We desire and pray that it is happening today as we move together in healing with our friends in the Ecumenical Working Group.

Finally, we have learned of the terrible inequality that continues to exist between the educational opportunities for white students and students from First Nations in Canada. Young people are still being transported to white communities, to obtain an education in an environment that is foreign to them. This is exactly what happened in the past and we seem to be reliving it again.

We share Shannen Koostachin’s dream that in our lifetime we will see equal opportunities for education in the home community of every Canadian. We will do everything in our power and influence to ensure that this comes to pass and the injustices of the past are not perpetuated.

You had the courage to stand up and speak out about the past. You can help us all to open our minds and our hearts to understand and to stop the destruction now and not have to go through this all over again.

Today we stand before you to pledge our support in the rebuilding of your language and culture. We cannot undo the things that are done, but we can take positive and meaningful steps to rebuild.

We have opened our Archives so that the whole picture of the Residential Schools can be seen. We will unlock the doors to the ancient books that preserved the languages of the First Nations and make copies available to people in their own communities. These precious resources will never again be the exclusive property of white scholars and academics.

We thank the Commissioners for challenging us to undertake this journey of self-examination and reflection with them. We will work hand in hand with our students past and present to bring all these things to pass.

May the Creator God who sees all and knows what is truly in our hearts, bring us together. May the Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha guide us that we can learn from each other, for she is a model for us all.

May we come once again to call each other “friend.”

Statement of Anabaptist Church Leaders

Presented to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada at the Alberta National Event, Edmonton, March 2014 Signed by Tim Dyck, General Secretary, Evangelical Mennonite Conference, Douglas P. Sider Jr., Canadian Director, Brethren in Christ Canada, Willard Metzger, Executive Director, Mennonite Church Canada, Willy Reimer, Executive Director, Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches, and Donald Peters, Executive Director, Mennonite Central Committee Canada.

We are leaders of a group of Canadian Christian churches known as Anabaptist denominations. Our delegation includes Mennonite Church Canada, the Evangelical Mennonite Conference, the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches, the Brethren in Christ Church of Canada, and Mennonite Central Committee Canada. Many people from our churches have come to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission events, including this one, to volunteer, to listen, to learn.

We acknowledge that we are all treaty people and that we are meeting on Treaty 6 territory, on land that is part of an historic agreement between First Nations people and newcomers, an agreement involving mutuality and respect.

Throughout the period of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission events across the country, we have watched and listened with respect, as residential school survivors have told stories with graciousness and courage, sharing experiences of the Residential School Legacy from its beginning. We are humbled to witness this Truth and Reconciliation Commission event.

As we have listened to your stories, we’ve added our tears to the countless tears that you have shed. We acknowledge that there was, and is, much hurt and much suffering.

We have learned much and we have much to learn.

We heard the wise words of Justice Sinclair encouraging us to acknowledge that all of us, in one way or another, have been affected by the Residential School experience. We recognize that being part of a dominant culture, our attitudes and perspectives made the Residential School experience possible and that these attitudes and perspectives became entrenched in our relationships and in our culture.

We regret our part in the assimilation practice that took away language use and cultural practice, separating child from parent, parent from child, and Indigenous peoples from their culture.

We regret that, at times, the Christian faith was used, wrongly, as an instrument of power, not as an invitation to see how God was already at work before we came. We regret that some leaders within the Church abused their power and those under their authority.

We acknowledge the paternalism and racism of the past. As leaders of Mennonite and Brethren in Christ church communities, we acknowledge that we have work to do in addressing paternalism and racism both within our communities and in the broader public.

We repent of our denominational encounters with Indigenous peoples that at times may have been motivated more by cultural biases than by the unconditional love of Jesus Christ. We repent of our failure to advocate for marginalized Indigenous peoples as our faith would instruct us to.

We are aware that we have a long path to walk. We hope to build relationships with First Nations communities so that we can continue this learning journey and walk this path together.

We are followers of Jesus Christ, the great reconciler. We are aware that words without actions are not only ineffective but may also be harmful. We commit ourselves to take your challenges to us very seriously. We will seek to model the reconciling life and work of Jesus in seeking reconciliation with you. We will encourage our churches to reach out in practical and loving ways, including dialogue and expressions of hospitality.

We commit ourselves to walk with you, listening and learning together as we journey to a healthier and more just tomorrow.

The Apology of The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) with respect to the Indian Residential School legacy, May 2004

Giuliano Zaccardelli, Commissioner Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Many Aboriginal people have found the courage to step outside of that legacy of this terrible chapter in Canadian history to share their stories. You heard one of those stories today. To those of you who suffered tragedies at residential schools we are very sorry for your experience. Healing has begun in many communities as you heard today, a testament that is a testament to the strength and tenacity of Aboriginal people and Aboriginal communities.

Canadians can never forget what happened and they never should. The RCMP is optimistic that we can all work together to learn from this residential school system experience and ensure that it never happens again.

The RCMP is committed to working with Aboriginal people to continue the healing process. Your communities deserve better choices and better chances. Knowing the past, we must all turn to the future and build a brighter future for all our children.

We, I , as Commissioner of the RCMP, am truly sorry for what role we played in the residential school system and the abuse that took place in that system.

← Back: Appendix 3: Persons Found Guilty of Abusing Residential Schools Students · Up: Table of contents · Next: Appendix 5: Honorary Witnesses →