Co-operation needed in native healing process

By 
  • July 21, 2008

{mosimage}OTTAWA - Healing and reconciliation formed the agenda for a meeting of Catholic bishops with Assembly of First Nations National Chief Phil Fontaine in Quebec City July 16.

“I recognize that thousands of Catholic men and women religious worked during the Indian residential schools era in what they sincerely believed to be in the best interest of Indian residential school students,” Fontaine said, according to an AFN news release. “However, it is important for these religious entities to both openly acknowledge their role in Indian residential schools and to hear directly from First Nations regarding their experiences.”

Joining Fontaine were Rimouski Archbishop-elect Pierre-André Fournier, Grouard-McLennan Archbishop Gerard Pettipas, who is the president of the 50 Catholic entities — dioceses and religious orders — involved in the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, Amos Archbishop Eugene Tremblay and Trois-Rivières Archbishop Martin Veillette.

Fontaine said he viewed the Catholic entities as “allies” in the healing process for residential schools survivors and their families.

“The close co-operation of all stakeholders is crucial to the success of the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” he said.

Fournier pointed out Catholic organizations began efforts to restore relations with First Nations people decades before the 2006 agreement was reached with the federal government, the churches involved in the schools and the survivors.

“We are grateful for the support and co-operation of First Nations leaders, such as AFN National Chief Fontaine,” he said. “We have always seen this healing and reconciliation process as an essential part of our relationship with Catholic and non-Catholic aboriginal communities, and expect this relationship to evolve in Quebec and the rest of Canada as we, together, move beyond the legacy of the flawed (Indian residential school) system.”

The meeting with the bishops coincided with the AFN’s annual general assembly in Quebec City and was the latest in a series initiated by Fontaine. The first meeting with women religious in Winnipeg was held in 2004. He has since met with Catholic bishops from Northern Canada, Catholic religious men and women in Montreal and Saint-Hyacinthe, Que., Winnipeg and Edmonton.

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