Canadian Conference of Bishops pledge $30M for survivors of residential schools

OTTAWA — The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops is pledging to fundraise $30 million for projects to help residential school survivors heal from their trauma.

President Raymond Poisson says it was made clear at a gathering last week that Catholic entities need to do more to address the historical wrongs done to Indigenous people through residential schools and the suffering former students experienced.

Catholic leaders have been under pressure to properly compensate survivors under the Indian Residential School Survivor Agreement after it was reported less than $5 million had been raised out of a $25 million goal.

The commitment of $30 million in funding comes after the Canadian bishops group issued an apology last week for the abuses committed by those in the church who ran the country’s residential schools.

Indigenous leaders are set to meet with Pope Francis in December at the Vatican to ask that he come to Canada to deliver an apology to survivors as called for by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

In a statement Tuesday, Manitoba Metis Federation president and Metis National Council vice-president David Chartrand commended the action of the bishops’ conference, and said he looked forward to meeting with the Pope “to express the importance of an apology ? that comes from him” as an “equally critical step on the path to healing.”

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs issued its own statement, saying it’s conflicted by the bishops’ recent apology, yet acknowledged it as a first step the Catholic Church needs to take to provide reparations to First Nations.

“I am hesitant, as I am sure many others would feel, to fully accept the apology of the bishops on behalf of my family,”Grand Chief Arlen Dumas said Tuesday.

“Perhaps if the apology was made in person by the bishops to the former students, then it may be more meaningful and be more sincere. As many others impacted by the legacy of (residential schools) would likely agree, I feel an in-person apology would help First Nations with achieving a lasting justice rather than a written statement delivered through the media.”

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