58. We call upon the Pope to issue an apology to Survivors, their families, and communities for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children in Catholic-run residential schools. We call for that apology to be similar to the 2010 apology issued to Irish victims of abuse and to occur within one year of the issuing of this Report and to be delivered by the Pope in Canada.
59. “We call upon church parties to the Settlement Agreement to develop ongoing education strategies to ensure that their respective congregations learn about their church’s role in colonization, the history and legacy of residential schools, and why apologies to former residential school students, their families, and communities were necessary.
60. We call upon leaders of the church parties to the Settlement Agreement and all other faiths, in collaboration with Indigenous spiritual leaders, Survivors, schools of theology, seminaries, and other religious training centres, to develop and teach curriculum for all student clergy, and all clergy and staff who work in Aboriginal communities, on the need to respect Indigenous spirituality in its own right, the history and legacy of residential schools and the roles of the church parties in that system, the history and legacy of religious conflict in Aboriginal families and communities, and the responsibility that churches have to mitigate such conflicts and prevent spiritual violence.
61. We call upon church parties to the Settlement Agreement, in collaboration with Survivors and representatives of Aboriginal organizations, to establish permanent funding to Aboriginal people for:
i. Community-controlled healing and reconciliation projects.
ii. Community-controlled culture- and language revitalization projects.
iii. Community-controlled education and relationship building projects.
iv. Regional dialogues for Indigenous spiritual leaders and youth to discuss Indigenous spirituality, self-determination, and reconciliation.
Apologies need action. Saying you're sorry and acknowledging what you did wrong is the first step – but what are you going to do, moving forward, to effect change?
Go to events and listen and learn. Offer to volunteer, where appropriate.
Have conversations. Get to know people as individuals, where they are at. We all have different backgrounds and stories. When we get to know people, we stop seeing them as “other.”
Ask questions. If you are unsure if something is cultural appropriation, or if you can take photographs, or in any situation where you don't know how to proceed – ask. Asking shows respect.
I made my main presentation short on purpose, because Reconciliation needs to have discussions, not some white person talking non-stop for an hour. Several people in the congregation spoke about their experiences learning about residential schools and with Indigenous people, such as a retired physician who worked for a time in an Indigenous community and witnessed a high rate of tuberculosis there.
I was asked what churches are doing specifically to address Reconciliation in Edmonton, and the answer is that it is really a church-by-church sort of thing. Each congregation is doing different things, some more than others, in terms of events and such.
I was also asked about how seminaries and theological schools are addressing Call to Action #60. I am definitely not in the loop when it comes to what is being taught in seminaries, but I did say that when I was growing up as a student in Edmonton's public school system, I never learned anything about residential schools. It was only more recently, when I attended the final TRC event in Edmonton in 2014 on assignment for a newspaper I was writing for at the time, that I learned about them. My mind was blown when I found out that the last residential school closed in the mid-90s. And I felt angry that such a gap existed in my education, and that what I received was a sanitized version of history. A younger man in the audience said that he learned about residential schools, so this is something that is changing with the generations. Someone added that this has indeed been added to the curriculum.
The conversation shifted at one point to the current controversy surrounding the removal of monuments and the changing of place names because of a historical figure's attitudes and actions towards Indigenous people and others. I acknowledged that this is a complicated issue, and that one way to deal with it is, instead of removing something, to add to a monument by indicating those negative actions and beliefs – complete the story, so to speak, instead of replacing it. Also, the practise of naming places and things after people is inherently flawed, because in many cases people have beliefs or have done things that do not stand the test of history. I discussed this in the context of my involvement with Completing the Story, which seeks to increase the visual representation of women in public places.
Finally, someone mentioned about having to be careful when it comes to building things where it is known there are sacred burial grounds, as well as building tributes to Elders. My response is that any project that is about Indigenous people should involve Indigenous people.