A memorial to the 215 children whose bodies were found in Kamloops stands outside the rectory at St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica. Photo by Michael Swan

Anger — and remorse — spreads wide following Kamloops discovery

By 
  • June 9, 2021

As 10,000 people marched in sorrow and in anger from Queen’s Park to Nathan Phillips Square, Vivian Timmins just had to be there — because Timmins is a residential school survivor.

The “Bring Back Our Children” march through Toronto’s downtown June 6 was a public acknowledgment of Timmins’ childhood spent at St. Anne’s Residential School on the shores of James Bay and at St. Joseph’s in Spanish, Ont.

“This is just the beginning, the first site,” Timmins told The Catholic Register. “I hope that people will start talking about it and start doing something.”

Among the people who must start talking and doing something are Catholics at all levels in the Church, Timmins said. In particular, Timmins wants to see all Church documentation of the schools it ran on behalf of the federal government available in publicly accessible archives.

“Quit hiding. The truth is out there and the world is watching,” said Timmins. “There are children that need to be found and brought home.”

On apologies, Timmins is not satisfied with the string of apologies since 1992 offered by the individual religious orders and dioceses that ran the schools.

“The Pope will have to come forward,” she said. “If the Pope comes (to Canada) I don’t know what changes. But if that happens it is recognized and acknowledged.”

Rosella Kenoshameg, an Anishnaabe elder and member of the Guadalupe Circle of elders and Church leaders, also went to St. Joseph’s in Spanish for four years. She believes a papal apology on Canadian soil could kickstart genuine reconciliation.

“I think the work would begin then. There’s bits and pieces now, but not the full extent of reconciliation. It’s just scratching the surface,” said Kenoshameg.

It’s important that a papal apology be delivered on Canadian soil, she said.

“It’s different when somebody says it from afar,” she said. “Rather than saying it to your face.”

Though saddened and shocked by the Kamloops discovery, Kenoshameg hopes it will be a wake-up call.

“Maybe now the truth will sink in, that it really happened. These are not just stories that are made up.”

For Kenoshameg, there’s no contradiction between remaining a faithful Catholic and holding the Church accountable.

“I grew up both ways. We lived the teachings growing up — a lot of the cultural teachings. And we also went to church, because my father was the organist at the church,” she said. “Living the traditional way, doing some of the ceremonies, and then our church part — that paved the way for me… That added to my own spirituality and strengthened that.”

Prayer is an essential part of how the Guadalupe Circle is responding to the Kamloops discovery, said Archbishop Murray Chatlain of the Archdiocese of Keewatin-Le Pas.

“It would be fair to say we are all struggling in the tsunami of emotions from within and without,” Chatlain said in an e-mail following a June 3 prayer meeting of the Guadalupe Circle. “Our listening to each other’s pain is important. We hope that might be a model for our fellow Catholics. We are inviting God’s grace into what’s going on in Canada.”

Chatlain believes the truth of the residential school experience is beginning to be understood outside of Indigenous communities.

“More Canadians and Catholics are getting the negative impact of our residential school legacy,” he said. “As Church, we share in the shame and sorrow of our colonial history. All of our circle renews a commitment to work for healing.”

As a bishop to a substantial number of Indigenous communities, Sault Ste. Marie Bishop Thomas Dowd said he was “struggling to find the words to address the tragedy and the shock, confusion and anger felt by so many, including myself.”

Dowd welcomed an impromptu memorial on the steps of the diocesan pro-cathedral in North Bay made of children’s shoes placed in honour of the Kamloops 215.

“These shoes on these steps are a sign of remembrance and create a place for people to grieve,” Dowd said in a June 2 letter to Northern Ontario Catholics.

Memorials set up outside of churches in Toronto have been welcomed by the Archdiocese of Toronto.

“We’ve asked parishes to leave the memorials up for a period of at least nine days, representing 215 hours,” said archdiocesan spokesperson Neil MacCarthy.

At Sunday Masses throughout Toronto’s 225 Catholic parishes, Toronto Catholics prayed “For the children who died in the former Kamloops Indian Residential School and for all those impacted by this tragedy, that there may be healing founded on truth and that the Spirit will inspire our ongoing commitment to reconciliation.” Many parishes observed a minute of silence.

Significantly for a diocese that did not operate any residential schools, Toronto Cardinal Thomas Collins offered an apology on behalf of Toronto Catholics at a 7:30 a.m. live-streamed Sunday Mass offered for all those who died or were abused at residential schools.   

“The real scandal is when evil festers in the darkness,” Collins said. “Once in the open, evil can be rooted out. That must continue to happen. Then new life can begin. Let us journey together to find light through the darkness once again.”

News of the unmarked graves “awakens the unhealed wounds of Canada’s colonial history,” said a June 4 statement from the organization that represents more than 10,000 Catholic religious sisters, brothers and priests in Canada.

“Shedding light on the past is crucial if we want to consider paths forward in the perspective of reparation,” said the Canadian Religious Conference statement.

In a June 7 statement, the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities in Canada committed its 17 member institutions to more research and teaching about the history of colonization, residential schools and Indigenous culture.

Lay Catholics are shocked and ashamed by the Kamloops discovery, said a June 1 statement from the new organization Concerned Canadian Catholics. It has launched a petition calling for accountability “for all of us in the Catholic Church in Canada.”

Standing among the protesters at Queen’s Park, holding a sign calling shame on the RCMP, the federal government and the Church, Madelyn Cowan said it was time to face facts.

“I feel everyone should have equal rights, no matter what you look like. I want people to be held accountable,” she said.

 

As 10,000 people marched in sorrow and in anger from Queen’s Park to Nathan Phillips Square, Vivian Timmins just had to be there — because Timmins is a residential school survivor.

The “Bring Back Our Children” march through Toronto’s downtown June 6 was a public acknowledgment of Timmins’ childhood spent at St. Anne’s Residential School on the shores of James Bay and at St. Joseph’s in Spanish, Ont.

“This is just the beginning, the first site,” Timmins told The Catholic Register. “I hope that people will start talking about it and start doing something.”

Among the people who must start talking and doing something are Catholics at all levels in the Church, Timmins said. In particular, Timmins wants to see all Church documentation of the schools it ran on behalf of the federal government available in publicly accessible archives.

“Quit hiding. The truth is out there and the world is watching,” said Timmins. “There are children that need to be found and brought home.”

On apologies, Timmins is not satisfied with the string of apologies since 1992 offered by the individual religious orders and dioceses that ran the schools.

“The Pope will have to come forward,” she said. “If the Pope comes (to Canada) I don’t know what changes. But if that happens it is recognized and acknowledged.”

Rosella Kenoshameg, an Anishnaabe elder and member of the Guadalupe Circle of elders and Church leaders, also went to St. Joseph’s in Spanish for four years. She believes a papal apology on Canadian soil could kickstart genuine reconciliation.

“I think the work would begin then. There’s bits and pieces now, but not the full extent of reconciliation. It’s just scratching the surface,” said Kenoshameg.

It’s important that a papal apology be delivered on Canadian soil, she said.

“It’s different when somebody says it from afar,” she said. “Rather than saying it to your face.”

Though saddened and shocked by the Kamloops discovery, Kenoshameg hopes it will be a wake-up call.

“Maybe now the truth will sink in, that it really happened. These are not just stories that are made up.”

For Kenoshameg, there’s no contradiction between remaining a faithful Catholic and holding the Church accountable.

“I grew up both ways. We lived the teachings growing up — a lot of the cultural teachings. And we also went to church, because my father was the organist at the church,” she said. “Living the traditional way, doing some of the ceremonies, and then our church part — that paved the way for me… That added to my own spirituality and strengthened that.”

Prayer is an essential part of how the Guadalupe Circle is responding to the Kamloops discovery, said Archbishop Murray Chatlain of the Archdiocese of Keewatin-Le Pas.

“It would be fair to say we are all struggling in the tsunami of emotions from within and without,” Chatlain said in an e-mail following a June 3 prayer meeting of the Guadalupe Circle. “Our listening to each other’s pain is important. We hope that might be a model for our fellow Catholics. We are inviting God’s grace into what’s going on in Canada.”

Chatlain believes the truth of the residential school experience is beginning to be understood outside of Indigenous communities.

“More Canadians and Catholics are getting the negative impact of our residential school legacy,” he said. “As Church, we share in the shame and sorrow of our colonial history. All of our circle renews a commitment to work for healing.”

As a bishop to a substantial number of Indigenous communities, Sault Ste. Marie Bishop Thomas Dowd said he was “struggling to find the words to address the tragedy and the shock, confusion and anger felt by so many, including myself.”

Dowd welcomed an impromptu memorial on the steps of the diocesan pro-cathedral in North Bay made of children’s shoes placed in honour of the Kamloops 215.

“These shoes on these steps are a sign of remembrance and create a place for people to grieve,” Dowd said in a June 2 letter to Northern Ontario Catholics.

Memorials set up outside of churches in Toronto have been welcomed by the Archdiocese of Toronto.

“We’ve asked parishes to leave the memorials up for a period of at least nine days, representing 215 hours,” said archdiocesan spokesperson Neil MacCarthy.

At Sunday Masses throughout Toronto’s 225 Catholic parishes, Toronto Catholics prayed “For the children who died in the former Kamloops Indian Residential School and for all those impacted by this tragedy, that there may be healing founded on truth and that the Spirit will inspire our ongoing commitment to reconciliation.” Many parishes observed a minute of silence.

Significantly for a diocese that did not operate any residential schools, Toronto Cardinal Thomas Collins offered an apology on behalf of Toronto Catholics at a 7:30 a.m. live-streamed Sunday Mass offered for all those who died or were abused at residential schools.   

“The real scandal is when evil festers in the darkness,” Collins said. “Once in the open, evil can be rooted out. That must continue to happen. Then new life can begin. Let us journey together to find light through the darkness once again.”

News of the unmarked graves “awakens the unhealed wounds of Canada’s colonial history,” said a June 4 statement from the organization that represents more than 10,000 Catholic religious sisters, brothers and priests in Canada.

“Shedding light on the past is crucial if we want to consider paths forward in the perspective of reparation,” said the Canadian Religious Conference statement.

In a June 7 statement, the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities in Canada committed its 17 member institutions to more research and teaching about the history of colonization, residential schools and Indigenous culture.

Lay Catholics are shocked and ashamed by the Kamloops discovery, said a June 1 statement from the new organization Concerned Canadian Catholics. It has launched a petition calling for accountability “for all of us in the Catholic Church in Canada.”

Standing among the protesters at Queen’s Park, holding a sign calling shame on the RCMP, the federal government and the Church, Madelyn Cowan said it was time to face facts.

“I feel everyone should have equal rights, no matter what you look like. I want people to be held accountable,” she said.

Comments (0)

There are no comments posted here yet

Leave your comments

  1. Posting comment as a guest. Sign up or login to your account.
Attachments (0 / 3)
Share Your Location

Please support The Catholic Register

Unlike many media companies, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our website. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith-based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.