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Reconciliation in Action

Response to the Pope’s Apology to Residential School Survivors

Date 1 Apr, 2022

Category Ministry, Reconciliation in Action

This morning, the Pope apologized for abuses against Indigenous children at Catholic residential schools. For decades survivors, advocates, and communities have been asking for the Catholic Church’s apology.

Though she is on sabbatical, Executive Director the Rev. Dr. Carmen Lansdowne shared a statement:

“The Pope’s apology this morning is an important first step towards completion of the TRC’s Call to Action #58 which calls specifically on the Pope, as the head of the Roman Catholic Church, to apologize, and to apologize in Canada. While it was unexpected to hear the words “I’m sorry” from His Holiness this morning, my hope is that it is an indication that when the Pope visits Canada later this year, that he make a formal apology on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church to survivors. The apology needs to not just be about the actions of the priests, nuns, and other staff of Catholic residential schools, but for the systemic design and generational legacies of the school as a tool of colonization, oppression and cultural genocide. Then the apology needs to be backed up with tangible amends, like making whole on the financial reparations and release of all the archival documents set out in the Settlement Agreements.”

As part of the United Church of Canada, as an Indigenous-led organization that serves people who have suffered abuse because of colonization, residential schools, and racism, and as an organization committed to the pursuit of justice, we see this as a long-overdue but important recognition. We hope that leaders in the Catholic Church and throughout all communities of faith continue to take accountability and commit to truth-listening and reconciliation.

For more of FIRST UNITED’s work on faith and reconciliation visit our Ministry Resources and our Reconciliation in Action Resources.

On Residential Schools

Date 9 Nov, 2021

Category Reconciliation in Action

Take a moment to read a poem by Dr. Cheryl Bear, First United’s Director of Community Ministry. Cheryl wrote the poem in response to the bodies of 215 children discovered in May 2021 at Kamloops Residential School in Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation territory.

CW: residential schools, trauma, grief

take your time take days sit with the grief of these daunting days sit with her and let her weep let her crawl into bed way too early and out of bed way too late let her cancel all the shopping trips all the plans and just sit with her stroke her hair and tell her, reassure her that things will get, no are getting better even if they are only won in court battles or through shaming the government into action (shame, shame on them) all of this work was not in vain every lecture every slide every chart exposed the truth and now everyone can see it took all of us to get here, to heal to change now it will take all of us again to get there to heal to change so our grandbabies can truly be free and can have better days and lives and deaths

…words spoken on a tear soaked day, still reeling from the news and praying for our courageous and powerful Elders, our Residential School Survivors – for my late mom, my Aunties and Uncles, grandparents, for all our relations.

Sunday May 30, 2021

In peace, Cheryl (Nadleh Whut’en First Nation) Director of Community Ministry, First United

National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

Date 9 Nov, 2021

Category Reconciliation in Action

September 30 is Canada’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation – a day we honour the lost children, the 150,000+ children who attended residential schools and those who have died since.

September 30 is a now federal statutory holiday and the leadership at FIRST decided to recognize it as well, to enable staff to have time to reflect, learn and deepen their own understanding.

Although the stories of unmarked graves are no longer making headlines, we recognize there are now confirmations of well over 6,000 graves across the country – surely with many more thousands to come.

Wear Orange

On Orange Shirt Day, which also takes place today, we remember those children who were taken from their families and recognize the impact it’s still having today.

Orange Shirt Day is based on the experience of Phyllis Webstad, a Northern Secwpemc (Shuswap) from the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation, who arrived on her first day of residential school dressed in a new orange shirt.

Her orange shirt was taken away from her and has become a symbol of how freedom, culture and self-esteem were systemically taken away from our Indigenous children and their families over generations.

On September 29, we held a community engagement event and handed out free orange shirts to community members – designed by one of our staff, Joseph Robertson (Haisla First Nation) – so that anyone in our community who wanted to wear an orange shirt today had access to one.

Our truth and reconciliation priorities

So where do we go from here? We see today as a rallying cry to focus on changing priorities and encouraging our leaders to take action.

FIRST is working toward reconciliation in action, and an important part of that is acknowledging the histories of colonization, systemic racism and the impacts of residential schools, the 60’s Scoop, and the disproportionate number of Indigenous children in non-Indigenous foster care.

We advocate for the enactment of all 94 of the TRC Calls to Action and the 423 recommendations of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, and the implementation of 231 ‘imperative changes’ called for by the National Inquiry on Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls.

We have signed on to an open letter to the BC Government with other members of the MMIWG2S+ Coalition calling for more protection for Indigenous women, girls and Two-Spirit people.

We encourage you in your learning journey and to educate your children in the TRC Calls to Action.

We’re committed to deepening our practice of reconciliation and the pursuit of justice, today and every day. Let’s do this together, as a community and as a nation.

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1 Apr, 2022
Response to the Pope’s Apology to Residential School Survivors
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