Pope Francis meets Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a private audience in 2017 at the Vatican. CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters

Majority of Canadians tired of residential school apologies, survey finds

  • June 13, 2018

OTTAWA – A majority of Canadians oppose the government making repeated apologies for the Indian residential schools, according to a new survey that indicates the country is deeply divided on the issue.

Released June 7 by the Angus Reid Institute, the survey said 53 per cent of people say Canada is too focused on apologies, while 47 per cent say apologies are important and cannot be ignored. Canadians are also more likely to say Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pays too much attention to Indigenous issues, rather than too little, the survey concluded.

The survey results will be disappointing to those Canadian bishops and others who hope Pope Francis will someday come here to issue an apology in person for Church involvement in the residential school scandals.

There is deep division among Canadians — Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike — on how to move forward with reconciliation, making this a complicated issue for policy makers, the survey said.

“From Indigenous self-government, to the legacy of residential schools, to the unique status of Indigenous Canadians, people in the country voice significant disagreement about the path forward,” it concluded.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett was asked about the survey on June 11 following a ceremony with Indigenous leaders to mark the 10th anniversary of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s historic apology in the House of Commons. 

“It isn’t for people other than survivors to judge whether or not an apology is important,” she said. “In everything that we have done it is because the survivors needed the apology.”

Bennett did not mention the papal apology specifically, but she referred to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, pointing out that many of the 94 Calls for Action in the commission’s report need to be implemented. Call to Action 58 said the Pope should apologize for the residential schools on Canadian soil.

“We are still on a journey where 95 per cent don’t really know what they don’t know,” Bennett said. “We will just put one foot in front of the other and continue to educate, but I think the journey of healing so often needs that apology, needs to hear someone say they’re sorry just as I said in my remarks about restorative justice.

“That is what justice needs and it’s certainly what it means to the survivors.”

The poll showed 53 per cent of Canadians believe Indigenous peoples should have no special status, while 47 per cent said Indigenous have an inherently unique status.

Asked whether Indigenous peoples should be “governed by the same system and rules as other Canadians,” 66 per cent said yes, while 34 per cent said they should be “moving towards more independence and control over their own affairs.”

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