Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report
June 5, 2015
On the occasion of the closing events for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
May 31 - June 3, 2015
Dear members of First Nations communities and all the People of God in the Archdiocese of Winnipeg,
I wish to express a few words to all members of the Archdiocese of Winnipeg and in a special way, to First Nations People living in southwestern Manitoba - the geographical location of our archdiocese.
I feel very deeply, the immense responsibility given to our generation to lay the foundation for a better future among aboriginal and non-aboriginal peoples - a future which is life giving; it is how we walk together, as fellow human beings that will give direction and hope to those who follow us. The closing events for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission are not only historic days, but they form an honorable moment - a humble moment that is not to be forgotten.
As the Roman Catholic Archbishop in Winnipeg, I simply wish to say that I have grown to understand more and more, the reality of Residential Schools and their impact on First Nations Peoples from one generation to the next. It is painful for me to recall my own ignorance of, and even detachment from, the woundedness and grief that I witnessed among First Nations People during my time as a school student on the west coast of Canada - the student body of my high school was one-half aboriginal and located next to a First Nations community in North Vancouver.
With the concluding events for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, I wish to express my deep sorrow for the suffering that occurred to aboriginal people through the Residential School system. It is important for all of us in the Church to acknowledge with regret, that some members of our Faith inflicted harm on the young people committed to their care in these schools and that the separation of family members contributed to the breakdown of family life and loss of traditions among First Nations peoples. We have a moral responsibility and an obligation to repent of this wrong doing and work towards healing and peace.
It is also important to recognize not only this woundedness among aboriginal people, but also the pain and disappointment experienced by many good men and women who worked in the schools, often giving their lives for the noble cause of education. Every member of the Church has, in fact, been affected by this legacy. At the same time it is humbling and a source of hope to see both aboriginal and non-aboriginal people seeking ways to bring understanding and justice within this brokenness.
We cannot change what has occurred, but what we can do is build a future - to do the 'right' thing together - and that is why we must pray for healing among all those affected by Residential Schools and work sincerely for true and lasting reconciliation. We have a responsibility to the next generation, to leave a legacy of mutual respect, understanding, and a willingness to listen to one another. Let us extend the hand of friendship to one another and treat the days ahead as an honourable time to bring about reconciliation between aboriginal and non-aboriginal peoples.
As a Christian, I look toward our crucified Lord and see that in the midst of pain, alienation and grief, there is still hope - there is still the promise of new life. As Jesus was lifted up to his Father - to the Creator of all, so we must ask for the grace to lift ourselves up, to walk a new path towards true and lasting relationships with one another.
Yours in Christ,
Archbishop of Winnipeg
Presentation to the truth and reconciilation commission
Archbishop Gerard Pettipas, Archbishop of Grouard-McLennan (Northwest Alberta)
Chair of the Catholic Entities who are party to the Indian residential School Agreement
Entities’ Response to TRC Findings
I am grateful for the opportunity to be here today to represent the over 50 Catholic dioceses and religious communities that were in some way a part of the Indian Residential Schools System. While the legacy of the schools challenges the whole church, the government and the whole of Canadian society, in a particular way it involves us who are party to the Settlement Agreement and to the work of the TRC.
In their name I want to express our appreciation to the Commissioners who have worked tirelessly to lead us all in a profound examination of conscience in regard to a painful period in our history. Through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission thousands of former students, their families and communities have given voice to their experience and we have been forced to confront the great harm and depth of suffering so many experienced. Through them we have had to face the pain of our past and that work has not finished. We have heard stories of resilience and some have also offered forgiveness and expressed a desire for reconciliation. In this way they have held open a door of hope.
The Commission has now presented all Canadians with Calls to Action. On behalf of Catholic entities, I receive these challenges and encourage others in our community to do so as well. In the next few months, I will be presenting these Calls to Action to all of the Bishops of Canada and to the Canadian Religious Conference as direction posts and milestones on the way to a reconciled future.
In the many events that I have attended it has become apparent that the road will be long but the end point is more than a faint hope. In Northern Alberta, where I come from, people are strengthened by the prophetic words of Chief Poundmaker:
“We all know the story of the man who sat beside the trail too long and then it grew over and he could never find his way again. We can never forget what has happened, but we cannot go back, nor can we just sit beside the trail.”
His Prophetic words join with the encouragement of Pope Francis who reminds us that “God is always capable of restoring our joy, he makes it possible for us to lift up our heads and to start anew”.
As the work of the TRC is coming to a close, we can say with humility that, while we may have not done enough, neither have we been sitting beside the trail. Through the TRC, Reconciliation Canada, Kairos, Returning to Spirit, the Oblate Justice and Peace Committees, the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs of the Western Catholic Bishops and many other ways we have been seeking and finding our ways of healing and reconciliation with the aboriginal peoples.
While the schools no longer exist we have been learning how these former institutions are connected to the rupture that still exists in our relationships. We are learning that reconciliation is not only about the past but is about our present need for justice and is about our capacity together to build a better future.
As we look to that future we will continue to be committed to remembering the past, to working in the present for healing and justice and to animating our work with the hope of a reconciled future.