Washington D.C., Jun 3, 2021 / 14:21 pm
The Archdiocese of Vancouver has promised transparency and support for burial and identification efforts, following the discovery of unmarked Indigenous graves at a former Church-run residential school in Kamloops.
In a June 2 letter to First Nations governments and other Indigenous populations, Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB of Vancouver expressed a “deep apology and profound condolences to the families and communities that have been devastated” by the discovery of the remains of 215 children at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. The children were buried in unmarked graves, and it is unclear how they died.
“Each time new evidence of a tragedy is revealed, or another victim comes forward, countless wounds are reopened, and I know that you experience renewed suffering,” the archbishop said to the First Nations and other Indigenous communities.
The remains of the children were discovered in mid-May through the use of ground-penetrating radar. At least 51 children had already been reported dying while attending the school..
In the letter, Miller repeated his 2013 apology to the Indigenous populations for the abuses that occurred in Church-run residential schools, saying that he remains “committed and accountable” to those words.
“I wish to apologize sincerely and profoundly to the survivors and their families, as well as to those subsequently affected, for the anguish caused by the deplorable conduct of those Catholics who perpetrated mistreatment of any kind in these residential schools,” said Miller.
The residential schools were funded by the former Canadian Department of Indian Affairs, and were administered by Christian organizations including Catholic religious orders. The Kamloops Indian Reservation School was opened in 1890, under administration of the Catholic Church. It was operated by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate from 1893 until 1969 when the government took control of the school.
Archbishop Miller said that “the Church was unquestionably wrong in implementing a government colonialist policy which resulted in devastation for children, families and communities,” and that his apologies “must be accompanied by tangible actions that foster the full disclosure of the truth.”