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Indigenous rights on the mind of Vatican’s new representative to Canada

Pope Francis’ new ambassador to Canada has often defended the rights of Indigenous peoples around the world and earlier this year noted they were being hard hit by the ongoing COVID pandemic.

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Researcher: ‘Mass grave’ narrative misses need for answers

Anthropologist Dr. Scott Hamilton said in an interview that he believes his study provides important detail and context for a public grappling with the implications of the Kamloops news. Hamilton said the “mass grave” description “misses the point with the residential-school story,” a story that unfolded over more than a century and in which appalling conditions led to high death rates due to disease, the most devastating of which was tuberculosis.

Deceased students were often buried in simple graveyards near the schools because federal authorities provided no funding to send the bodies home or to conduct proper burials.

The result, Hamilton told The B.C. Catholic, was that the children were interred in de facto “pauper’s graves” with simple wooden crosses that have deteriorated and disappeared over the decades.

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FULL INTERVIEW: Chief Wilton "Willie" Littlechild with Archbishop Smith on reconciliation

Exclusive interview with Chief Wilton "Willie" Littlechild and Archbishop Richard Smith on reconciliation.

Chief Littlechild, former Grand Chief of the Confederacy of Treaty 6 First Nations, attended 3 different residential schools over a span of 14 years. 

He was also a commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a member of the 1977 Indigenous delegation to the United Nations, and worked on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

He is a recipient of the Order of Canada, Alberta Order of Excellence, and Queens Counsel.

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VIDEO: Vigil for the 215 at Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples

Video of the vigil held at Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples in Edmonton on Thursday, June 3, 2021 for the Kamloops 215.

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Archbishop's Letter on Kamloops 215

We must acknowledge the role played by Catholic organizations in the residential school system. I recall my own testimony to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, given on behalf of the Catholic Bishops of Alberta and the Northwest Territories:

“We apologize to those who experienced sexual and physical abuse in residential schools under Catholic administration. We also express our apology and regret for Catholic participation in government policies that resulted in children being separated from their families, and often suppressed Aboriginal culture and language at the residential schools.”

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Statement on Grandin name

The people of the Archdiocese of Edmonton share the deep pain felt by Indigenous Peoples, and indeed all Canadians, arising from the disclosure that what is believed to be the remains of 215 children were found at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in B.C.

The painful legacy of residential schools, many of which were originally under Catholic administration, reverberates to this day.

The name Bishop Vital-Justin Grandin, central Alberta’s first bishop, appears in a variety of contexts: on buildings, schools, and neighbourhoods. We acknowledge that it represents a controversial and mixed legacy. Although Bishop Grandin is rightly remembered for the many good things he accomplished, nevertheless the association of his name with the sad and tragic legacy of residential schools has rendered it for many people a reminder of very painful experiences.

The Archdiocese is ready to engage and work directly with First Nations, school districts, Franco-Albertan communities, the City of Edmonton, the provincial government and all stakeholders in an ongoing and meaningful conversation about the next steps.

We are committed and working towards finding a solution that is respectful to all parties involved.

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Pastoral response from Fr. Susai and Fr. Mark to the Indigenous Peoples

As members of the Catholic clergy and the Missionary Oblates, we feel deep sadness and shame at how some of our church ancestors became agents who implemented the government policies that traumatized and wounded Indigenous culture, communities, and families.

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Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples re: Kamloops residential school tragedy

We have been working closely with Father Susai of Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples, which is a National Catholic Parish for indigenous people. 

Sacred Heart parish elders hosted a pipe ceremony – a high honour among First Nations – at 3 p.m. on Thursday, June 3. The ceremony was by its sacred nature private, involving only the elders. No photos or videos were allowed.

Following that private ceremony with a more public outreach, a 4 to 6 p.m. vigil was held at the Sacred Heart church site on 96 Street in which 215 ribbons were tied in the area.

During the prayer service, there was be traditional smudging and also one man drumming.

A limited number of participants were able to be physically present to reflect silently or speak. In the interest of crowd control due to the COVID pandemic, others were asked to either drive past and respectfully reflect inside their vehicles, or to walk past with appropriate social distance spacing.

His Grace Archbishop Richard W. Smith will be celebrating Mass at Sacred Heart parish at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday June 6. Mass will be offered for the victims of the former Kamloops residential school and for all residential school survivors. Both that Mass, and Mass from the Basilica, will be livestreamed on YouTube and Facebook.

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Online Rosary for Kamloops tragedy at 7 p.m.

Rev. Les Kwiatkowski is planning a rosary this evening (June 2, 2021) with 215 candles to honour of the 215 children whose remains were recently discovered at the Kamloops residential school. The rosary at Lac Ste. Anne will be livestreamed on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCL797S1WP_vSnXosmjHbLXg at 7 p.m.

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Canada’s bishops express ‘deepest sorrow’ over loss of 215 children found buried at former residential school

Canada’s bishops are expressing their “deepest sorrow” and pledge to “continue walking side by side” with Indigenous people in the wake of the discovery of the bodies of 215 children buried at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.

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