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Catholic Bishops of Canada acknowledge residential school abuse; issue apology and make pledge

WARNING: The following story contains details some readers may find disturbing.

The Catholic Bishops of Canada today expressed profound remorse, and apologized for the suffering experienced in Canada’s Indian Residential Schools.

The apology was issued at the end of their annual Plenary meeting. Below is the full statement:

Statement of Apology by the Catholic Bishops of Canada to the Indigenous Peoples of This Land

OTTAWA, ON, Sept. 24, 2021 /CNW/ – The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), after months of regular meetings and conversation with Indigenous leaders at the national and local level, has completed its annual Plenary Assembly meeting, with this year’s major focus being on healing and reconciliation. At the end of this annual Plenary meeting, and informed by many conversations with First Nations, Métis and Inuit organizations, the Bishops have collectively issued the following statement:

We, the Catholic Bishops of Canada, gathered in Plenary this week, take this opportunity to affirm to you, the Indigenous Peoples of this land, that we acknowledge the suffering experienced in Canada’s Indian Residential Schools. 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. We acknowledge the grave abuses that were committed by some members of our Catholic community; physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, cultural, and sexual. 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.  Along with   those Catholic entities which were directly involved in the operation of the schools and which have already offered their own heartfelt apologies1, we2, the Catholic Bishops of Canada, express our profound remorse and apologize unequivocally.

We are fully committed to the process of healing and reconciliation. Together with the many pastoral initiatives already underway in dioceses across the country, and as a further tangible expression of this ongoing commitment, we are pledging to undertake fundraising in each region of the country to support initiatives discerned locally with Indigenous partners. Furthermore, we invite the Indigenous Peoples to journey with us into a new era of reconciliation, helping us in each of our dioceses across the country to prioritize initiatives of healing, to listen to the experience of Indigenous Peoples, especially to the survivors of Indian Residential Schools, and to educate our clergy, consecrated men and women, and lay faithful, on Indigenous cultures and spirituality. We commit ourselves to continue the work of providing documentation or records that will assist in the memorialization of those buried in unmarked graves. 

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Having heard the requests to engage Pope Francis in this reconciliation process, a delegation of Indigenous survivors, Elders/knowledge keepers, and youth will meet with the Holy Father in Rome in December 2021. 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.

We commit ourselves to continue accompanying you, the First Nations, Métis and Inuit Peoples of this land. Standing in respect of your resiliency, strength and wisdom, we look forward to listening to and learning from you as we walk in solidarity.

1 Indian Residential Schools and TRC – Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (
2 The CCCB website has a link to several apologies previously offered by Catholic bishops, including those offered by bishops at national TRC events

Former Residential School students can call 1-866-925-4419 for emotional crisis referral services and information on other health supports from the Government of Canada.

More information and links for support is available here

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