Ontario English Catholic Teachers

Direct papal apology significant, but more action needed to address residential school trauma


“Pope Francis’s historic Canadian visit, to make a papal apology directly to Survivors and Indigenous peoples for the Catholic Church’s role in Canada’s residential school system, is a significant step forward that supports the efforts required to achieve the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action.

As Catholic teachers, we are committed to ongoing, culturally relevant education in our classrooms and communities, to learn about the Catholic Church’s role in colonization, the history and legacy of residential schools, and why apologies to residential school students, their families, and communities are essential. We acknowledge the generational trauma caused by Canada’s residential school system and how it has devastated the identities, cultures, and spiritual values of Indigenous communities. We add the strength of our voice in the advocacy and continued struggle to end discrimination against all Indigenous peoples.

Since the publication of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action, stories told by residential school survivors have been affirmed by the finding of unmarked graves at former residential schools across Canada. As Catholic teachers, we continue to support the calls for the federal government to immediately implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. And we call on the provincial government to reinstate vital resources around Indigenous education.

This week’s direct papal apology and dialogue with Survivors and Indigenous peoples appropriately draws on the theme of “Walking Together.” It is together, through meaningful reconciliation, with real, immediate, and dedicated truth and action, that the Catholic Church, all levels of government, and we, as a society, must act to seek justice and confront the enduring pain caused by Canada’s residential school system. The progress of this week must continue as we walk with Indigenous peoples across Canada in their pursuit of healing and reconciliation.”

- Barb Dobrowolski, President of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association