“I accept and I confess before God and you, our failures in the residential schools. We failed you. We failed ourselves. We failed God.”
On August 6, 1993, Archbishop and Primate Michael Peers delivered an apology to the Sacred Circle (then called the National Native Convocation) in Minaki, Ontario, for the Anglican Church of Canada’s role in residential schools. The apology came after three days of emotional testimonies from residential school survivors, while a lengthy downpour of rain took place outside at the gathering.
Some described the three days as a time enveloped in darkness—as stories of cultural loss, abuse, and the stripping away of language, spirituality, and heritage dominated the gathering. Yet after the Primate’s apology, clouds parted and sunlight returned. The next day, Indigenous Elder Vi Smith responded on behalf of survivors and Elders at the National Native Convocation, in acknowledgment and acceptance of the Primate’s words.
After the apology
Today, the journey of reconciliation continues—through listening, truth-telling, repentance, and healing with Indigenous peoples, both within and beyond the Church. Reflecting on the 15th anniversary of the apology, Archbishop and Primate Fred Hiltz acknowledged the progress made since 1993. In 2019, Archbishop Hiltz furthered the commitment with “An Apology for Spiritual Harm” during the gathering of the Church’s national decision-making body, General Synod. General Synod 2019 also passed a motion to memorialize the apology, and August 6 was designated as the day in the Church’s liturgical calendar for Memorializing the Apology, 1993.
In 2022, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby’s Canadian visit to several Indigenous communities brought further reconciliation. Archbishop Justin offered an apology for the Church of England’s legacy of colonialism and the harm done to Indigenous peoples. An excerpt:
For that terrible crime, sin, evil, of deliberately… building hell and putting children into it, and staffing it—I am more sorry than I could ever, ever begin to express. … I am ashamed. I am horrified. I ask myself where does that come from, that evil? It has nothing, nothing, to do with Christ.
— Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby (May 1, 2022)
More information about the Church’s history, including history of the self-determining Indigenous Church, is available here.
Several translations of Archbishop Peers’ 1993 apology are provided below.