Students at Cross Lake Indian Residential School in Manitoba pose with their teacher in 1940. Library and Archives Canada

Archdiocese of Toronto building plan to aid residential school survivors

By 
  • July 19, 2021

The Archdiocese of Toronto has announced a three-pronged plan aimed at supporting its efforts to aid residential school survivors and Indigenous communities, including a fundraising campaign.

In a statement July 19, the archdiocese identified three priority areas in which it is establishing working groups that will include Indigenous representatives: financial support, education, and outreach and spiritual support.

“While the archdiocese did not operate residential schools, we have a responsibility to take genuine and meaningful steps to journey with Indigenous communities on the path to reconciliation, and to assist in healing the trauma experienced from the residential school system,” the archdiocese said in its statement.

The archdiocese said that a Healing & Reconciliation Fund has been established in response to those who wish to donate immediately. Donations can be made online through community.archtoronto.org, by phoning 416-934-3411, or through any church in the archdiocese.

Further details on the archdiocese’s financial campaign are expected to be released in the coming weeks. 

In the wake of recent discoveries of unmarked graves at government-funded residential schools operated by the Catholic Church, the bishops of Saskatchewan announced a province-wide fundraising appeal last week in aid of residential school survivors. The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops noted in a release that “Bishops from many dioceses across the country have indicated to the CCCB their readiness to discern possible local and/or regional fundraising initiatives.”

The Toronto initiatives in education are to include educating clergy, staff and the faithful “regarding the tragic legacy of residential schools and its continuing impact on Indigenous people, and to develop a greater understanding and appreciation of Indigenous spirituality.”

The archdiocese said it recognizes “the journey to reconciliation is one that will continue for years to come,” and echoed the apology issued in 1991 by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate which operated many of the 63 schools run by Catholic religious orders across Canada. In the apology, the Oblates said: “We apologize for the existence of the schools themselves, recognizing that the biggest abuse was not what happened in the schools, but that the schools themselves happened. …We wish to apologize in a very particular way for the instances of physical and sexual abuse that occurred in those schools…Far from attempting to defend or rationalize these cases of abuse in any way, we wish to state publicly that we acknowledge they were inexcusable, intolerable and a betrayal of trust in one of its most serious forms.We deeply and very specifically, apologize to every victim of such abuse and we seek help in searching for means to bring about healing.”

About 150,000 Indigenous children attended residential schools from the 1870s until 1997. Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission identified 130 residential schools, established under the federal government’s policy of integrating Indigenous people into the mainstream population.

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