Current Reality

Sept. 24, 2021: Global NewsIn an open letter, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) expressed their “profound remorse” for their participation in the system, which led to the suppression of Indigenous languages and culture. “We acknowledge the grave abuses that were committed by some members of our Catholic community; physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, cultural, and sexual,” the letter reads… the Catholic Bishops of Canada, express our profound remorse and apologize unequivocally. The CCCB pledges 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.July 1, 2021: Associated Press – “Pope Francis has agreed to meet with Indigenous survivors of Canada’s notorious residential schools amid calls for a papal apology for the Catholic Church’s role in the abuse and death of thousands of native children.”

July 1, 2021: Associated Press – “Pope Francis has agreed to meet with Indigenous survivors of Canada’s notorious residential schools amid calls for a papal apology for the Catholic Church’s role in the abuse and death of thousands of native children.”

June 6, 2021: NPR – Pope Francis continued his resistance to issuing a formal apology for the role of the Catholic Church in the legacy of the residential school system in Canada.

All Church Parties to the Truth and Reconciliation Settlement Agreement have issued formal apologies from their leadership – except Pope Francis of the Roman Catholic Church – for their policies and actions that led to the abuses experienced by students at the church-run residential schools as documented by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

United ChurchAug. 1986, 1998For over-all dismissal of Indigenous spiritual beliefs Specifically, to residential school survivors for the church’s role
Anglican ChurchAug. 1993;
July 12, 2019
To residential school survivors for physical, emotional and sexual abuse For harm inflicted through cultural and spiritual arrogance
Presbyterian Church1994For its role in residential school system

The Catholic Church was also the only one of the four Church Parties to the Settlement Agreement who failed in their efforts to raise funds for Indigenous reconciliation programs and services. All others were successful.Each of the church parties to the Settlement Agreement have made commitments to ongoing education activities within their respective congregations and institutions and have all agreed to respect and honour Indigenous spirituality. Schools of Theology and Seminaries are making progress.

Calls to Action

Call to Action # 58Papal apology from the Roman Catholic Church
Call to Action # 59Develop education strategies to teach impacts of colonization
Call to Action # 60Develop and teach curriculum on Aboriginal spirituality
Call to Action # 61Permanent funding for healing, language & reconciliation projects

Current and Ongoing Problems

Refusal of Pope Francis of the Catholic Church to apologize

Sept. 24, 2021: Global NewsThe Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops pledges 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.

July 1, 2021: Associated Press – “Pope Francis has agreed to meet with Indigenous survivors of Canada’s notorious residential schools amid calls for a papal apology for the Catholic Church’s role in the abuse and death of thousands of native children.”

June 7, 2021: Toronto Star – “In a speech Sunday in St. Peter’s Square, and in a statement posted on Twitter, Pope Francis addressed the news that the remains of 215 children had been found at a former residential school site in Kamloops, B.C. expressing his ‘closeness to the Canadian People who had been traumatized by (the) shocking discovery…His speech was met with anger and criticism on social media from Canadian politicians, Indigenous leaders and others. The archbishop of Toronto indicted that one reason for the lack of an apology is that “each diocese is independent and responsible for its own actions, and that approximately 16  out of 70 Roman Catholic dioceses in Canada were associated with the former residential schools

May 2, 2018: Toronto Star – Parliament of Canada votes 269 to 10 across all party lines to call on Pope Francis to apologize for the Catholic Church’s role in the Indigenous Residential School system and also to call on the Catholic Church to “resume best efforts” to raise funds as agreed in the 2006 settlement deal between residential school students, religious groups that ran the schools and the federal government. The motion also asked Catholic entities to make “consistent and sustained “efforts to provide documents from the schools to former students who want them. (Toronto Star)

March 27, 2018 – Refusal of Pope Francis to apologize for the role in operating and managing up to 60% of the Residential schools in Canada. Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops stated that the pope could not “personally” apologize.“The Catholic Church is the only church that has not formally apologized to the survivors. Perry Bellegarde, National Chief for the AFN, Dec. 16, 2015”

Court in Saskatchewan is refusing to release documentation of Catholic Church’s “In-Kind Services”.

Sept. 28, 2021: Globe and Mail – Documents obtained by the Globe and Mail through an access-to-information request to the federal government include an “in-kind log.” It contains brief descriptions of the services provided by Catholic entities. Those services were required under a national residential schools  settlement reached between Indigenous groups, former students, the federal government and religious organizations in 2006.

The log, last updated in Sept., 2011, lists in-kind services including training for pastors, “community work,” outreach services and a biblical studies program. It is unclear from the descriptions whether these were services the church would already have been providing absent the settlement. It is also unclear to what degree the services were directed toward Indigenous peoples.

All told, nearly half of the 192 log entries list “community work and presence” by a pastor or religious sister. Some entries do not specify whether the listed services took place in Indigenous communities.

Other log entries include participation by one bishop and two priests in a healing pilgrimage, participation in a conference, and support for a pilgrimage to the Vatican.

Critics say the settlement process lacked transparency and a clear focus on survivors’ needs, and that a full review of past church obligations is warranted.

Aideen Nabigon, former director general of policy and partnerships for theIndian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, who reviewed the log, said many of the in-kind services entries look like charity work the church would have been performing anyway, rather than efforts directly tied to reconciliation.

“It’s just completely against the spirit of the settlement agreement, which was supposed to be about reconciliation,” she said. There should be a sweeping review of how the settlement obligations were created, how they were carried out and accounted for, and why the government released the church from its commitments, said Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, a law professor and academic director of the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre at the University of British Columbia. This should include a full release of all related documents, she added. She has filed access requests on this topic and waited years for responses

July 26, 2021: CBC – A Roman Catholic Church document claiming the church provided $25 million of “in-kind services” to residential school survivors is sitting inside a Regina courthouse, but officials are refusing to release it. The document is said to outline “in-kind services” that the church agreed to provide as part of a deal reached with the federal government to compensate survivors of residential schools in Canada. The Catholic Church, the only party refusing to sign the main agreement, reached a side deal with Ottawa. Dozens of lawyers hired by the 48 Catholic entities eventually signed.

Those entities included various dioceses and archdioceses in Canada and orders of priests and nuns that operated some of the schools. The three other churches that operated schools — United, Anglican and Presbyterian — signed the original deal and paid full compensation years ago without incident.

The Catholic Church made three promises to survivors, totalling $79 million.

  • A $29-million cash payment. Most of that appears to have been paid, with the church securing a court order in 2015 that it had to pay only $1.2 million of what was remaining.
  • Secondly, the church agreed to give “best efforts” at fundraising $25 million. Less than $4 million of that was paid to survivors. Citing the “best efforts” clause, a Saskatchewan judge absolved the church of further fundraising in that same 2015 case. Following a recent CBC News investigation, church boycott calls and revelations that more than $300 million was devoted during this period to cathedral and church construction, bishops across Canada announced a renewed fundraising campaign to be launched this fall.
  • Thirdly, the Catholic Church was allowed to claim the final $25 million as “in-kind services.” The agreement specified that the services should directly benefit survivors and their descendants. Wider community projects could also qualify, but they were not the focus.
Roman Catholic Church for failure in fund-raising effort

July, 6, 2021: CBC – Catholic officials said in 2015 they could only fundraise a total of $3.9 of the $25M they were asked to fundraise for residential school survivors. However, since signing the landmark Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement in 2005, Canadian Catholic dioceses have either spent or are fundraising $292 million for cathedrals and other church buildings, according to a search of public sources by CBC News.

Toronto                                           $128M

London                                             $30M

Montreal                                           $30M

Saskatoon                                        $28M

Vancouver                                        $24M

Saint John                                        $20M

Regina                                              $17M

Moncton                                              $7M

Winnipeg                                             $6M

Windsor                                               $4M

Halifax                                                 $2M

Ottawa                                             $500K

The figure of $292M resulted from searches of individual dioceses’ websites and other public sources. These include a $128M renovation of St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica in Toronto. The 2016 gala opening – complete with a brass band- was held one year after Canadian church groups went to court to say there was no more fundraising money for survivors.

Critics say the financial commitment to residential school survivors was largely forgotten. The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops declined a CBC News request this week to ask its member bishops for the information. 

Stated inability to pay the $21.3M balance owing of the mandated $25M to be raised in a “best-efforts,” Canada-wide fundraising campaign by the four Church Parties to the Settlement Agreement. The Church managed to raise only $3.7M. The other church parties to the Settlement Agreement used all the required funds for Indigenous reconciliation programs and services.

Jan. 6, 2016: Catholic Register – As a result of the Catholic fundraising campaign falling more than 80 per cent short of its goal, a reimbursement has been made to the other church parties to the Settlement Agreement:

  • Anglican Church of Canada: $2.8M to apply to its ongoing Anglican Fund for Healing and Reconciliation, which runs reconciliation projects in remote aboriginal communities across Canada.
  • Presbyterian Church of Canada’s $1.3 million cash payment to apply to Indigenous programming
  • United Church of Canada: $2.2M reimbursement TBD at press time