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Hollow words of Reconciliation

John Bell

September 27, 2021

Ahead of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation (September 30) the Canadian Council of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) has issued a faint apology for the church’s role in the Residential School system.

The statement does "acknowledge the suffering experienced…” by RS victims but stops far short of admitting the Catholic Church’s institutional role in genocide.

Instead they claim “Many Catholic religious communities and diocese participated in this system…” “We acknowledge the grave abuses that were committed by some members of our Catholic community; physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, cultural and sexual.” 

This language attempts to shift the historical guilt to individuals away from the Church as a whole.

Even the most mainstream Indigenous organizations, like the Assembly of First Nations, found the apology inadequate. They feel that, since the apology does not come from the Pope, it is less than genuine.

Others remind that talk is cheap. To date the Catholic Church has only paid 15% of the $25 million it pledged in 2006 to pay to RS survivors and families.

In their statement the CCCB offers to “provide records” to help identify some of the thousands of Indigenous children buried in unmarked graves. This careful wording means that they intend to control the flow of information, rather than making their archives and records open and accessible to any and all Indigenous investigators.

The CCCB statement is a rather desperate exercise in public relations, far short of a full and genuine apology. Too little too late.



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