Shomporko Online News Desk: Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller believes that Canadian Catholic bishops must apologize for their church’s and predecessors’ roles in the residential school system.
His remarks came as the federal government stated that $27 million in previously announced funding would be made available on an “urgent basis” to Indigenous communities dealing with the discovery of 215 children’s remains in unmarked gravesites at the former Kamloops residential school.
When asked if he believes the Catholic Church ought to apologize, Miller answered, “I’m not Catholic, but I spent long enough in a Catholic institution to have a position on things.”
“I think it is shameful they haven’t done it…. Certainly, my Catholic friends that I speak to believe it should be done. There is a responsibility that lies squarely on the shoulder of the council of bishops of Canada.”
The chief of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc said on Thursday that the community had located the remains of 215 children in unmarked burial sites at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, through the use of ground-penetrating radar.
Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett told the House of Commons during an emergency debate on Tuesday evening that “we are all profoundly shaken by this horrifying discovery.”
Bennett reiterated her horror in the press conference with Miller on Wednesday and said the federal government will be there to support Indigenous communities on how they want to move forward.
“Communities know what they need and we will be there to support their way forward,” she said.
Bennett also faced questions about whether she believes the Catholic pope should apologize for the church’s role in the residential school system, as there are growing calls for him to do.
She said it’s clear that many Indigenous people “want to hear the pope apologize.”
“It’s up to Catholics across this country to ask their church to do better including not only whatever they have in terms of records that have not been shared, but also what we’ve been hearing over the weekend of the apology from the pope being very much front and center,” she said.
Minister of Northern Affairs Dan Vandal, who is Metis, described the discovery as “traumatic” and added it will be important for the federal government to listen to the needs of Indigenous communities rather than decide unilaterally how to move forward in the wake of the discovery.