In the words of Murray Sinclair, a former member of the Canadian Senate and Chair of the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission (2009 – 2015):
“Reconciliation requires awareness, acceptance, apology, action, and respect.”
On May 27, the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation announced the remains of 215 children were discovered in an unmarked grave at a residential school run by a Catholic religious order in Kamloops, British Columbia.
The Canadian Catholic bishops had never apologized for the Church’s role in running these schools.
So we—Catholics, Christians, people of other faiths and no faith, members of CPT, Treaty people all—gathered every Sunday in front of Cardinal Archbishop Collins’ official residence with a request, a call, a demand: apologize now.
Sunday after Sunday evening passed. We came with candles, tied ribbons, offered prayers, left notes and banners, and read the known names of children who died in residential schools. Other than one email, there was only silence. One vigiler wrote in chalk on the sidewalk outside Collins’ residence: “Talk – Action = Zero”.
On 24 September, after decades of appealing, it finally came. “We, the Catholics Bishops of Canada, express our profound remorse and unequivocally apologize.”
In their apology, the Bishops promise to:
- Raise money in support of healing and reconciliation initiatives.
- Collaborate with and listen to Indigenous peoples.
- Educate Catholics.
- Provide records to help memorialize the unmarked child graves.
- Seek a papal apology.
Respect Respect Respect
We gathered again on 29 September, the eve of Canada’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, to solemnly acknowledge this long-awaited apology. And to call upon the bishops to make this apology real through heartfelt, persistent, long-term collaborative action.
Apology + Action = Reconciliation.
We are all Treaty people.