The atrocities documented at several residential schools are abhorrent – crimes that cry out to our Loving God. The Canadian government’s decision to assimilate First Nations, Métis and Inuit through residential schools was based on the prevalent colonial worldview that is unacceptable. It is a source of shame that many religious communities and Christian churches were involved in this tragic part of our history. We want to be authentic witnesses to our faith and we are committed to working for positive change.
Archbishop Damphousse of Ottawa said in a statement he made on National Indigenous Peoples Day: “As a church, we failed not only to be authentic witnesses to the goodness of Jesus Christ, but we sinned against our brothers and sisters in our care”.
Between 1880 and 1996 more than 150,000 Indigenous children were separated from their families and forced to attend residential schools across Canada. Many suffered abuse or from lack of the necessities such as adequate food and medicine. We recognize and must accept the fact that Catholics were involved in the Residential School System and that the wider Canadian community went along with this program of assimilation.
CNEWA, along with the rest of Canada, is taking time to listen and learn from our Indigenous brothers and sisters. Now that the painful silence is broken, reconciliation, which is long overdue, can and must go forward.
From our CNEWA Canada perspective, we assure you of our due diligence in making sure our programs respect the dignity of the local people we accompany in their daily struggles. We travel regularly to the regions we serve; we work with our offices and partners in the Middle East, India, Ukraine and Ethiopia to make sure that conditions reflect our expectations of the highest expressions of solidarity and dignity of the person. We are always cognizant of respecting local cultures, languages, history and beliefs.
We hope that you will join us in praying for and with the Indigenous Peoples in Canada. May the Lord of all Power bless our country and help bring forth true healing and reconciliation.