Indian Residential Schools Resources – Sample Apologies

Indian Residential Schools – Resources

Apologies (a sample; in chronological order)

Pope John Paul II, “Speech to Aboriginal and Inuit Peoples,” St. Anne de Beaupre Shrine, September 1984 – although the Holy Father’s acknowledgement that “difficulties and mistakes occurred in the relationship between aboriginal peoples and settlers” is not adequate, his confidence in the moral and spiritual values of aboriginal culture and in the process of reconciliation is a prescient statement of the position taken by aboriginal leaders today.

Pope John Paul II, “Address to the Native Peoples of Canada,” Fort Simpson, September 1987 – made points similar to St. Anne address and, interestingly, called for a “new covenant” to ensure basic Aboriginal rights, including the right to self-government.

“Statement by the National Meeting on Indian Residential Schools,” Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, 13-15 March, 1991 – the most necessary apology, that of those most responsible for the IRS’s, the heads of the dioceses and religious orders who were hired by the federal government to operate the schools.

“An Apology to the First Nations of Canada by the Oblate Conference of Canada,” 24 July 1991 – the apology of one of the three religious orders in British Columbia who ran the schools.

Homilies of the Most Reverend Austin E. Burke, Archbishop of Halifax, St. Catherine’s Church, Mi’kmaq, 6 December, 1992 and Sacred Heart Church, Millbrook, 14 February, 1993 – an expression of sorrow within the context of the IRS’s in the Maritimes. [UPDATED June 5, 2021]

Very Rev. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, Superior General of the Society of Jesus, “Apology to Native Americans for Past Mistakes,” Idaho, May 16, 1993 – an interesting apology for abuses in the schools run by the Jesuits in the US; see the Robert Carney article “Aboriginal Residential Schools Before Confederation” in the Historical and Cultural Background section for a completely different approach to Jesuit educational practices in Canada.

Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, Let Justice Flow Like a Mighty River, 1993, 45 pp. without workshops – a presentation to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples expressing the CCCB’s hope and confidence in the strength of the aboriginal people; reviews the Church’s mission history; includes two workshops designed to increase awareness of the aboriginal people’s rights and concerns; of special interest is Appendix A, a summary of over sixty initiatives taken by the CCCB from 1969 to 1990 supporting the Native peoples’ struggle for justice in Canada; not an apology, since, due to the principle of subsidiarity, the CCCB had no direct responsibility for IRS’s, but nevertheless, clear evidence of a dedicated commitment to aboriginal people’s welfare, beginning thirty years before the IRS’s were a national issue.

Open letter of the Most Reverend Gerald Pettitpas, C.S.s.R., Archbishop of Grouard-McLennan, Alberta, 28 April, 2008 – a brief expression of sorrow, request for forgiveness, statement of hope, support for the TRC.

Apology of the Most Reverend Murray Chatlain, Bishop of Mackenzie-Fort Smith, May 2009, Inuvik, North West Territories – a multilingual, detailed apology, illuminating the context within which abuses took place and acknowledging their consequences.

Marie Zarowny, SSA, “Statement on Behalf of Congregations of Women Religious Involved in the Indian Residential Schools of Canada,” presented in Rome, April 2009 at the meeting with Benedict XVI, and in Vancouver September 2013 at the Truth and Reconciliation National Event – a brief historical overview of the Sisters’ services to the children in the schools, an acknowledgment of the abuses that occurred and their tragic consequences, and the Sisters’ institutional and personal commitment to justice for the First Nations peoples in the future.

Additional information and links are available on a special page on the CCCB website. [UPDATED June 5, 2021]

Next -> Personal Testimonies Back to Indian Residential Schools

NOTE: We are aware that some links are no longer working and have identified them with [BROKEN LINK]. Some links have been updated as of Oct. 7, 2020 and we are making efforts to repair others. Please notify us at if you can provide a new link.