The Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples has added its voice to those urging Prime Minister Stephen Harper to reconsider the government’s decision not to apologize to former students of Indian Residential Schools.
March 28, 2007
The Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper
Government of Canada
Dear Prime Minister,
On behalf of the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples, we are writing to convey to you our strong disappointment and the grief caused by the reporting in this week’s Globe and Mail of your refusal to offer an apology to Aboriginal peoples in Canada who are former students of the Indian Residential Schools, and to their families.
We have come to understand since our work began over 18 years ago with the Church, the Aboriginal Rights Coalition, and later representatives of the Federal Government that the stated goal of the assimilation policy of the Government of Canada was, to quote the former Indian Affairs Deputy Superintendent Duncan Campbell Scott,“to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic.” Indian Residential Schools were implemented to carry out this policy, by means of removing Aboriginal children from their homes and communities and placed in residential schools far from home. In these schools we were forbidden to speak our own languages, and were taught the foreign cultures of our colonizers. Many of our peers did not return to their homes and families for years, and others died at the schools and their parents were never told of their deaths. This policy of assimilation did not succeed, nonetheless the legacy of pain, suffering and dysfunctional behaviours are today in our communities and families as a result of the attempts to “take the Indian-ness out of the Indians.”
Our church, The Anglican Church of Canada, was complicit in implementing the policy of assimilation by administering 26 schools as agents of the Government of Canada. We were able to continue in our journey of healing ourselves when in 1993 our Primate, Archbishop Michael Peers, offered an apology on behalf of the church for the harm done by the residential school system. He said,
“I accept and I confess before God and you, our failures in the residential schools. We failed you. We failed ourselves. We failed God. I am sorry, more than I can say, that we were part of a system which took you and your children from home and family. I am sorry, more than I can say, that we tried to remake you in our image, taking from you your language and the signs of your identity. I am sorry, more than I can say, that in our schools so many were abused physically, sexually, culturally and emotionally. On behalf of The Anglican Church of Canada, I offer our apology.”
The Anglican Church of Canada has been participating in the Alternative Dispute Resolution Process and send church representatives to these hearings in the role of listener, to hear and receive the story of the survivor, and to offer an apology on behalf of the church. We know that for many survivors, that hearing the apology is as important as the financial compensation and that their healing may continue when their suffering is acknowledged and validated.
Mr. Harper, we strongly urge you to reconsider your decision to refuse an apology to former students of the Indian Residential Schools and to their families.
The Reverend Gloria Moses, The Venerable Dr. Sidney Black
Co-Chairs of The Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples
The Anglican Church of Canada