Catholic bishops of Canada announce $30-million national financial pledge to support healing and reconciliation initiatives

By CCCB Communications

As a tangible expression of their commitment to walk with the Indigenous Peoples of this land along a pathway of hope, the Catholic bishops of Canada are making a nation-wide collective financial commitment to support healing and reconciliation initiatives for residential school survivors, their families, and their communities.

With a target of $30 million over up to five years, this will include initiatives in every region of the country. The commitment will be achieved at the local level, with parishes across Canada being encouraged to participate and amplify the effort.

Bishop Raymond Poisson, President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), expressed hope that these efforts will support meaningful projects across Canada and make a significant difference in addressing the historical and ongoing trauma caused by the residential school system.

“When the Bishops of Canada came together in plenary last week, there was universal consensus that Catholic entities needed to do more in a tangible way to address the suffering experienced in Canada’s residential schools. Comprised of local diocesan initiatives, this effort will help support programs and initiatives dedicated to improving the lives of residential school survivors and their communities, ensuring resources needed to assist in the path of healing.”

Funding for projects will be determined locally, in consultation with First Nations, Métis and Inuit Peoples in each region. The Catholic bishops of Canada have committed and tasked themselves to develop national principles and strategy, timelines, and the public communication of these collective initiatives this November.

Bishop William McGrattan, Vice-President of the CCCB, articulated the importance of working together with Indigenous Peoples on local goals, timing, and distribution of funds.

“The Bishops of Canada have been guided by the principle that we should not speak about Indigenous People without speaking with them. To that end, the ongoing conversations with local leadership will be instrumental in discerning the programs that are most deserving of support. There is no single step that can eliminate the pain felt by residential school survivors, but by listening, seeking relationships, and working collaboratively where we are able, we hope to learn how to walk together in a new path of hope.”

News of the fund-raising goal follows a national apology that was issued by the Canadian Catholic bishops on Sept 24, 2021. In the weeks and months ahead, the CCCB will continue to provide updates on this work, as part of a long path towards healing and reconciliation.

Related: “Canadian Catholic bishops: “Statement of Apology to the Indigenous Peoples of This Land”

Sept. 28: SK Catholic bishops provide update on their provincial effort “Catholic TRC Haling Response”

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) gathered in an annual plenary meeting Sept. 20-24, 2021, took the opportunity to affirm and acknowledge to the Indigenous Peoples the suffering experienced in Canada’s Indian Residential Schools.

Many Catholic religious communities and dioceses participated in this system, which led to the suppression of Indigenous languages, culture and spirituality, failing to respect the rich history, traditions and wisdom of Indigenous Peoples.

The Catholic Bishops of Canada acknowledged the grave abuses that were committed by some members of our Catholic community; physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, cultural, and sexual. They also sorrowfully acknowledged the historical and ongoing trauma and the legacy of suffering and challenges faced by Indigenous Peoples that continue to this day.

Along with those Catholic entities which were directly involved in the operation of the schools and which have already offered their own heartfelt apologies, the Catholic Bishops of Canada expressed their profound remorse and apologized unequivocally.

Together with the many pastoral initiatives already underway in dioceses across the country, the bishops pledged to undertake fundraising in each region of the country to support initiatives discerned locally with Indigenous partners.

The Catholic bishops of Canada invited the Indigenous Peoples to journey with them into a new era of reconciliation, helping to prioritize initiatives of healing, to listen to the experience of Indigenous Peoples, especially to the survivors of Indian Residential Schools, and to educate clergy, consecrated men and women, and lay Catholic faithful, on Indigenous cultures and spirituality.

The bishops further committed to continue the work of providing documentation or records that will assist in the memorialization of those buried in unmarked graves.

A delegation of Indigenous survivors, Elders/knowledge keepers, and youth will meet with the Holy Father in December 2021. Pope Francis will encounter and listen to the Indigenous Peoples, so as to discern how he can support our common desire to renew relationships and walk together along the path of hope in the coming years.

The Bishops of Canada have pledged to work with the Holy See and Indigenous partners on the possibility of a pastoral visit by the Pope to Canada as part of this healing journey.

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The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) is the national assembly of the Bishops of Canada. It was founded in 1943 and officially recognized by the Holy See in 1948.