Video marks 15 years since Primate’s apology to Aboriginals

On August 6, 1993, Archbishop Michael Peers, then-Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, stood before the National Native Convocation in Minaki, Ont. and apologized for his church’s involvement in residential schools. The Anglican Church of Canada had helped administer around three dozen schools between 1820 and 1969, and many students had suffered emotional, physical, and sexual abuse.

Archbishop Michael Peers at the 1993 Native Convocation in Minaki, Ont.
Archbishop Michael Peers at the 1993 Native Convocation in Minaki, Ont.

Archbishop Peers spoke these words: “I am sorry, more than I can say, that we were part of a system that 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, by taking from you your language and your signs of identity.”

The next day, Vi Smith, an Aboriginal elder, formally accepted this apology.

A new online video marks the apology’s 15th anniversary, both with clips from the 1993 event and reflections from the current Primate, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, on what has happened since then.

Since that August day, Archbishop Peers’s words have been frequently referenced as a turning point in the relationship between Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals in the Anglican Church of Canada. The full text has been distributed widely, and can be read online, in both English and Oji-Cree [PDF].

In the video, Archbishop Hiltz explains how the church “has faithfully tried to live this apology and accompany words with action.” He mentions the residential schools working group, the Primate’s special envoy for residential schools, and the Anglican Healing Fund, which has contributed over $3.25 million to 330 Aboriginal healing projects since 1991.

The Anglican Church of Canada has also worked to raise awareness about the history and legacy of residential schools. Most recently, a delegation of Anglicans visited Ottawa to witness Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s apology to residential school survivors on June 11, 2008. The church was also a partner in the Remembering the Children tour, which promoted Canada’s truth and reconciliation commission on residential schools.


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