Church Leaders Urge Government Apology for Residential Schools

Article excerpt

Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, has expressed "strong disappointment and sadness" over the federal government's refusal to offer an apology to former students of native residential schools and their families.

In a letter, Archbishop Hutchison strongly urged Prime Minister Stephen Harper to reconsider his government's decision not to issue an apology saying that for many former students it was "at least as important" as the compensation provided in the revised Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.

The primate "was backed by Archbishop Caleb Lawrence of Moosonee, who wrote on behalf of "bishops, clergy and people of the Ecclesiastical (church) Province of Ontario," Bishop Colin Johnson of Toronto and the Anglican Council for Indigenous Peoples (ACIP). Bishop Johnson said the federal government's decision not to apologize to former students was wrong, and he encouraged Anglicans in the diocese to write to their members of Parliament and the Prime Minister to reverse that decision.

Archbishop Lawrence, meanwhile, wrote, "Part of the settlement agreement involved the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Reconciliation involves regret and forgiveness. Before there can be forgiveness' there must be an expression of contrition. In secular terms that means an apology."

(All nine provincial and territorial courts approved a settlement agreement March 8, which may be implemented by fall.)

In his letter, the primate noted that in the church's work in the Alternative Dispute Resolution process, "We have heard that for many survivors, the apology is at least as important as the financial compensation. …