THE discovery of a mass grave of hundreds of children at the site of a former Roman Catholic residential school has unleashed “heart-wrenching and profound grief” within the community, the Anglican Primate of Canada, the Most Revd Linda Nicholls, has said.
The remains of 215 children, some as young as three, were discovered last week on the site of Kamloops Indian residential school for indigenous children, once Canada’s largest such school, with the help of ground-penetrating radar, the chief of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation announced this week.
The Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, said: “As a dad, I can’t imagine what it would feel like to have my kids taken away from me. As a Prime Minister, I am appalled by the shameful policy that stole Indigenous children from their communities.”
Responding on Thursday, Archbishop Nicholls said that the Anglican Church “shared in the painful legacy” of the schools. “The grief of families and communities unleashed by this news is heart-wrenching and profound.
“There have long been stories told in Indigenous communities of children who disappeared or never returned home from residential school, and whose parents were never told what had happened or given the opportunity to receive their bodies for community ceremony. Whether the deaths were due to illnesses, abuse, or neglect, the lack of dignity offered to these children by an anonymous burial far from their family or community is tragic and unacceptable.
“We grieve with all whose children never came home.
“The Anglican Church of Canada shares in the painful legacy of residential schools. We remain committed to the long, hard road of reconciliation, including apologies made for our part in residential schools (1993) and for the devastating spiritual harm caused (2019), and ongoing work towards reconciliation and support for healing for personal and intergenerational trauma.
“We know there are sites at Anglican residential schools where some graves are unmarked, or where records are incomplete. We are committed to working with Indigenous communities to assist to recover whatever information is available and to join in advocating for ground searches of those burial sites.”
June marks National Indigenous History Month. Indigenous groups in the country have demanded a nationwide search for further graves, while families of the children have called on the RC Church to apologise.
The President of Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), Archbishop of Winnipeg, the Most Revd Richard Gagnon, did not apologise, but said in a statement: “I express our deep sorrow for the heart-breaking loss of the children of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. . . The news of the recent discovery is deeply disturbing. It brings to the forefront the trauma in many communities across this country.”
He continued: “We lift up our prayers to the Lord for the children who have lost their lives, and we commit ourselves to ongoing accompaniment of indigenous families and communities.”