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Catholic Bishops of Canada apologize for residential schools

September 25, 2021 - 5:00 PM

Survivors of Canada’s residential school system received an official apology from the Catholic Bishops of Canada, if not from the Pope and the Catholic Church itself.

The Bishops released a statement Sept. 24 including a full and formal apology.

“We acknowledge the suffering experienced in Canada’s Indian Residential Schools,” they said. “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.”

Indigenous leaders have been called for a formal apology from the Pope and the Church; calls renewed this year after as many as 1,800 children were found buried near residential schools in Canada, including 215 children in Kamloops.

The Bishops admit that grave abuses that were committed by the Catholic community, in the forms of sexual, physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual and cultural.

“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.”

Attempts to reach local Indigenous leaders were unsuccessful before deadline.

Unlike the greater Catholic Church, the Canadian Bishops are offering a full apology.

“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.”

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However, the term “Cultural genocide” was not used in the statement. 

Canadian Bishops say they are fully committed to the process of healing and reconciliation. They will be fundraising in every region of the country to support initiatives to benefit local Indigenous partners.

They are inviting Indigenous Canadians to join them in a new era of reconciliation, in which leaders want to understand the experiences of Indigenous Peoples – especially to the survivors of Indian Residential Schools – to help re-educate the clergy.

“We commit ourselves to continue the work of providing documentation or records that will assist in the memorialization of those buried in unmarked graves.”

A delegation of Canada’s Indigenous survivors, elders, knowledge-keepers and youth are scheduled meet with Pope Francis in Rome in December. So far, the Pope has notoriously refused to apologizing for the Church’s role in the residential school system.

“Pope Francis will encounter and listen to the Indigenous participants, so as to discern how he can support our common desire to renew relationships and walk together along the path of hope in the coming years. We pledge to work with the Holy See and our Indigenous partners on the possibility of a pastoral visit by the Pope to Canada as part of this healing journey.”


To contact a reporter for this story, email Dan Walton or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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