From the 1870’s until 1996, 150,000 Indigenous children were sent to residential schools with the express purpose of cultural assimilation. The schools were funded by the Federal government but staffed by personnel from various Christian churches. About 60% of the schools were administered by Catholic religious communities and dioceses. The results were tragic: Parents lost contact with their children. There were high levels of disease, malnutrition, and physical and sexual abuse. An estimated 6,000 children died at the schools, many buried in unmarked graves. Today, there is the legacy of intergenerational trauma.

For a map showing the location of all residential schools, click here.

A majority of residential schools were administered or staffed by Catholic religious communities and dioceses. Tragically, there were many cases of abuse in its many forms, for which many Catholic groups have apologized. Many sisters, brothers, and priests laboured selflessly for decades in the schools, offering educational possibilities to indigenous children in difficult conditions, unaware of their participation in the assimilation process.

The following posts from the Timeline of Actions in Favour of Reconciliation make reference to Indian Residential Schools.

May 10, 2017

Suggestions issued by the CCCB in consultation with the Canadian Catholic Indigenous Council and Our Lady of Guadalupe Circle for Catholic groups regarding residential school burial sites and inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.


May 1, 2016

Pastoral Letter regarding the Indian Residential Schools agreement with the Government of Canada by the Most Rev. Mark Hagemoen, Bishop of Mackenzie-Fort Smith.


January 16, 2014

Publication of statement by Sister Marie Zarowny, S.S.A., first presented at time of First Nations/Catholic Church Delegation to Rome and the Historic Meeting with Pope Benedict XVI Rome, April 30, 2009.

An adapted version was given on behalf of Congregations of women religious involved in the Indian Residential Schools of Canada, at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission National Event held in Vancouver in September 2013.


June 11, 2009

Participation of the Most Rev. Paul-André Durocher, Bishop of Alexandria-Cornwall, as the CCCB delegate to the first National Day of Reconciliation, commemorating the first anniversary of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s apology to Aboriginal Peoples on behalf of the Government of Canada for Indian Residential Schools. Archbishop Durocher took part in a traditional sunrise ceremony and exchanged gifts with Aboriginal elders and leaders.


May 2, 2009

Apology of the Most Rev. Murray Chatlain, Bishop of Mackenzie-Fort Smith Inuvik, NT regarding former Residential Schools.


April 29, 2009

At the invitation of Pope Benedict XVI, Indigenous and Church representatives from Canada had a private meeting with him at the Vatican to discuss the Indian Residential Schools. The Holy Father expressed his sorrow at the anguish caused by the deplorable conduct of some members of the Church in these institutions.

National Chief Phil Fontaine of the Assembly of First Nations delivered this statement to Pope Benedict XVI

Announcement from Holy See Press Office

Later, Chief Fontaine said Canada’s Natives Peoples have moved into a post-apology era

Additional reading:




Launch of the “Moving Forward Together” Campaign by the 54 Catholic Entities of CCEPIRSS to support healing and educational programs for Canadian Aboriginal communities, including former residential school students and their families.


May 8, 2006

The Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement was signed by the Government of Canada, the Assembly of First Nations and Inuit Representatives, the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada, the Presbyterian Church of Canada, the United Church of Canada, and eventually 54 Catholic entities representing 17 dioceses and 37 religious institutes that were involved in managing and helping to operate the residential schools which were under the jurisdiction of the Government of Canada.



Creation of the Canadian Catholic Entities Party to the Indian Residential School Settlement (CCEPIRSS), composed of the 54 Catholic dioceses and religious congregations involved in the Indian residential schools. As part of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement, CCEPIRSS agreed to raise and provide funds for healing and reconciliation.

November 28, 2005

Letter to Bishops from CCCB President Most Rev. André Guimond announcing agreement in principle with the Government of Canada for settlement of claims related to the former Indian Residential Schools.

May 26, 2004

Mr. Gerry Kelly participated in the first annual Ottawa gathering of the National Day for Healing and Reconciliation.  The initiative for this grassroots movement to raise our national awareness of the need for healing and reconciliation within and between cultures came from the Nechi training centre in Edmonton, Alberta. The Council also collaborated with the organizing committee of the National Day for Healing and reconciliation to produce a newsletter which focused on healing and reconciliation initiatives between First Nations, religious communities, former residential school students and faith communities.

August 2001

The coordinator of the Catholic Organizations Task Group on Indian Residential Schools, Mr. Gerry Kelly, conducted a survey of dioceses and religious institutes on pastoral activities for aboriginal communities.

June 15, 1998

A statement of apology was made by Bishop Gerald Weisner, O.M.I., to former students of Indian Residential Schools, at a healing circle at Alkali Lake, in the diocese of Prince George, BC.

February 1996

Bishop Reynauld Rouleau, O.M.I., of the Churchill-Hudson’s Bay Diocese, apologized to Inuit who were physically and sexually abused at the residential Joseph Bernier School and Turquetil Hall in Chesterfield Inlet, NT, between 1952 and 1969.

December 6, 1992

In a homily at a Mass for the community of St. Catherine’s, Micmac, Nova Scotia, the Archbishop of Halifax, the Most Rev. Austin E. Burke, acknowledged and apologized for the pain caused by residential schools. On February 14, 1993, Archbishop Burke expressed the sorrow to the people of Sacred Heart Church, Millbrook Reservation, NS.


July 24, 1991

An Apology in connection to the Indian Residential Schools was delivered to the First Nations by the Oblate Conference of Canada.

March 13-15, 1991

Catholic leaders participated in a National Meeting on Indian Residential Schools at- Saskatoon, SK. They issued a statement expressing their apology and their commitment to dialogue with, and their support of, the Indigenous communities.