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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.