The former chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission says the Archbishop of Canterbury’s recent visit to Canada was a missed opportunity for the Anglican Church to have a greater influence on reconciliation.
Murray Sinclair told CBC News that Archbishop Justin Welby’s apology for the Anglican Church’s role in residential schools last weekend was significant, but more survivors should have been able to witness it.
“When a leader of this magnitude comes forward and takes responsibility for what the institution he leads has done, that’s a big thing,” said Sinclair, a former senator and judge.
“If not enough people hear you, it doesn’t really benefit the population because they will always remain in a feeling of distrust towards this relationship.”
WATCH | Archbishop of Canterbury concludes visit to Canada
Welby apologized to survivors three times during his trip across Canada. Each apology, delivered in a separate location, builds on the previous one.
He issued his historic first apology last Saturday to survivors of residential schools in the James Smith Cree Nation, about 200 km northeast of Saskatoon.
The following day, at a rally with other survivors and Indigenous leaders in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, he apologized on behalf of the Church of England for residential schools and its broken promises to Indigenous peoples.
LISTEN | Residential school survivors recall meeting the Archbishop of Canterbury
The afternoon edition – Sask.10:02Survivor discusses Archbishop of Canterbury’s apology for Anglican Church’s role in boarding schools
On Tuesday at the headquarters of the Anglican Church in Toronto, he apologized during a private meeting with survivors and representatives of the Six Nations of the Grand River and the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte.
Children from these First Nations were sent to the Mohawk Institute run by Anglicans in Brantford, Ontario. – known as the “Mush Hole” due to the poor quality of the food.
The apology also expanded on two previous apologies issued by the Anglican Church of Canada in 1993 and 2019.
“Almost like a slap”
Sinclair, now chancellor of Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., said it was important for the archbishop to announce that the church takes responsibility for the conduct of its members and does not simply blame them for their wrongdoings.
“They themselves recognized that they had undertaken a policy of forced assimilation and cultural genocide,” Sinclair said.
“It was an important part of the reconciliation process.”
But Sinclair said more should have been done to include as many survivors as possible in the Canadian visit – the Archbishop of Canterbury’s first in eight years.
“Talking to survivors in a community is good for that community, but for the rest of the survivors it’s almost like a slap in the face in the sense that you’re being ignored,” he said.
Although the trip was announced by the Anglican Church of Canada in February, it was not widely publicized.
Sinclair said he only learned of Welby’s visit shortly before he arrived.
“I wish I had met him,” Sinclair said.
Welby was invited to visit Canada from April 29 to May 3 by Archbishop Linda Nicholls, the Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.
He was also invited by former National Aboriginal Anglican Archbishop Mark MacDonald, who resigned shortly before Welby’s trip over what the church called “acknowledged” sexual misconduct.
Patricia Ballantyne, who attended the Anglican-run Prince Albert Indian Residential School from 1978 to 1987, said she was surprised few survivors knew the events were taking place in Saskatchewan.
“They say they want residential school survivors to share their stories, but they haven’t told our First Nations people,” said Ballantyne, a Cree woman from Saskatchewan’s Woodlands who met Welby over the weekend. -end.
“This makes me sad.”
“There was no intention to keep it a secret”
Interviewed by CBC on Sunday, Welby said he was sorry some survivors were unable to attend.
“It was supposed to be a totally public visit,” Welby told Prince Albert. “There was no intention of keeping this a secret.”
He said the local church is better placed than the Archbishop of Canterbury to make a difference with reconciliation.
“If this visit helps build more momentum and helps us bring things together around the Anglican Communion, that’s wonderful,” Welby said,
“I don’t have the power…to flip a switch and suddenly fix everything so they don’t miss a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Some survivors have requested financial support from the church. Welby said he could not commit to this during the visit because the billions of dollars in Church of England assets are not under his control, but are regulated by an Act of Parliament.
The Anglican Church of Canada paid $15.7 million to former residential school students under the Indian Residential Schools Settlement.
He was reimbursed $2.8 million – which he said he invested in Indigenous ministry programs – after a different compensation formula was negotiated with the Roman Catholic Church.
Ottawa in charge of funding, says Sinclair
Sinclair said more money was needed for healing and support programs, but churches could not be counted on to help.
Sinclair said Ottawa must bear the brunt of the responsibility.
“Even the great Catholic Church would not be able to fund all of the healing programs needed by survivors and their families across the country,” Sinclair said.
“It will have to come from the Government of Canada, as it should, because it was the policy of the Government of Canada to establish residential schools, and it was their leadership and support that enabled the churches to do what they did when they ran the schools.”
Sinclair said churches must recognize the right of Indigenous peoples to their own spiritual beliefs and must not try to indoctrinate them.
He encouraged churches to contribute financially to residential school healing initiatives, such as language revitalization and other cultural programs. He also called on them to use their influence to pressure the federal government to commit more money.
“They should contribute what they can, but they should also ask members of society… who can do more than they have done,” he said.