Thursday, June 11, 2009


Nova Scotia Mik'maq elder and myself at October 2008 Pilgrimage for Healing after the papal audience in St. Peter's Square.

The Conference of Catholic Bishops of Canada, in the person of Executive Committee member Most Reverend Paul-Andre Durocher of Alexandria-Cornwall, participated in ceremonies on Parliament Hill marking the recurrence of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's historic apology in the House of Commons for the harm done to Native Peoples and those associated with them for the harm inflicted on the survivors of the Indian Residential School system.

For the occasion, I have prepared the following statement:

June 11, 2009 marks the first anniversary of the federal government’s Apology to First Nations for the residential schools. This day is truly an historic moment that we must keep alive for the future.

I am happy to join my voice to all who rejoice in this event, and invite all the faithful of the Catholic Archdiocese of Ottawa to take note and be counted. This historic moment may produce different effects. To some, it is a reminder that not enough has been done to undo the harm, and that much more is yet to be accomplished. And to others, it is a momentous event that gives energy to continue forward on the path before us.

As Christians, we celebrate many historic events: Christ’s birth, his suffering, death, and resurrection that obtained salvation for all men and women. In a Christian context, the act of remembering is not only observing a date on a calendar. Each “remembrance” brings with it the opportunity to enter fully into the moment, into the redeeming event that continues to be effective. Each person is also called to make the event their own. Each individual is invited to let the message and action remembered transform their life.

On this first anniversary of the formal Apology to First Nations for the residential schools, it is my heartfelt wish that every member of Canadian society will take the steps necessary to heal the many wounds suffered as consequence of the residential schools system. These wounds deeply affected not only the ones who lived the experience, but also members of their families, close and extended, then and now. May every Canadian resolve to let their attitude or actions be transformed so that this part of our history is never repeated. May we all work together to bring about present and future healing.

This day is the beginning of a new life inasmuch as we let it be. It is in our power to do so. We must never forget, but use the experience of the past to shape our handling of the future. The future begins today. Each person has the capacity to move forward, one step at a time.

Unless one has “walked in another’s shoes”, he, or she cannot know exactly the impact of personal or family events. But one can respectfully acknowledge the hurt and try to be an instrument of healing. May our faith communities be fully united in this work.

Let us give thanks to God our Creator and Saviour for the signs of hope and new life in our society and in our lives. Let us ask that the Spirit of God will enlighten our path, will create new ties between non-native and First Nations Brothers and Sisters. Let us ask the Spirit to strengthen in us the courage to create a Canadian nation where are all truly equal and responsible for each others wellbeing.

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