Last week, Prime Minister Trudeau said he was “deeply disappointed” at the lack of a formal apology by the Church, calling on the Church to release all relevant records and saying the government had “tools” to apply if the Church did not release the records, according to the Associated Press.
Appearing on CBC on Sunday, Cardinal Collins called Trudeau’s remarks “extremely unhelpful” and “uninformed,” saying the school’s records are available at the Museum of British Columbia. Other relevant Catholic institutions "should" release their records on the schools if they have not already done so, he added.
Cardinal Collins last week promised to offer his Mass on Sunday, June 6, for the victims of abuses in the school system.
Catholic organizations and leaders have already apologized for the past abuses in the system, he noted, including a formal apology and payments to survivors by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, who operated the Kamloops school for more than seven decades.
“Pope Benedict XVI also had the chance to meet with Indigenous leaders in 2009 to personally express his sorrow and anguish,” he said. After that meeting, Phil Fontaine, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said he hoped the pope’s statement would “close the book” on Church apologies for the schools, according to Cardinal Collins.
“These actions do not erase our history; they acknowledge our past, force us to face the consequences of our behaviour and compel us to ensure that our sins are not repeated,” he said on June 3.
In response to requests for an apology by the Catholic Church in Canada, Cardinal Collins said that “[t]here is no such entity.”
“Each Catholic diocese and religious order is an independent legal entity,” he stated, noting that only 16 of the country’s 70 dioceses “were associated with the former residential schools,” with around three dozen Catholic institutes connected to the schools.
“Each diocese and institute is corporately and legally responsible for its own actions,” he said, noting, “Many of the dioceses or orders operating schools have offered apologies, dating back to the early 1990s.”
The country’s bishops apologized in unison with some religious communities in 1991, for abuses in the residential school system, he said. The president of the Canadian bishops’ conference also issued a statement on May 31 expressing sorrow and a desire for reconciliation after the Kamloops school discovery.
The Archbishop of Vancouver last week apologized to survivors and their families, and committed to “tangible actions.” These actions included transparency with Church records, mental health support, and counseling, and technical and professional assistance with honoring and re-burying the deceased children.
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This article was updated on June 7 with additional information.