‘I am ashamed, I am horrified’: Archbishop of Canterbury expresses remorse over church’s role residential schools

There was another apology from the Anglican Church of Canada to residential school survivors over the weekend—but this time it came from the Archbishop of Canterbury, the senior bishop and principal leader of the Church of England.

Archbishop Justin Welby visited the James Smith Cree Nation in Treaty 6 territory in northeastern Saskatchewan where residential school survivors shared their stories of abuse and suffering.

Welby expressed his remorse for what they went through.

“I am sorry.  I am more sorry than I can say.  I am ashamed, I am horrified,” Welby said. “The grace shown by the survivors is so extraordinary. The graciousness. One came up to me this morning and said I slept well last night. I felt the lifting of the burden. It’s only the first step in a very long journey, but it was a great blessing to me,” Welby said.

“It was a very gracious step to say that to me.”

Read the apology here: Archbishop Justin’s apology to Indigenous Peoples of Canada

Indigenous leaders say the archbishop’s apology was a crucial step to achieving truth and reconciliation.

Survivor Dennis Sanderson said he accepts the apology for what happened to him in the Anglican-run schools.

“I grew up to forgive. In the later years of my life, to forgive what has been given to me, what has been taken away from me,” said Sanderson.

The Anglican Church apologized for its role in residential schools in 1993, and again in 2019.  But, for some, like Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Senator Sol  Sanderson, the apologies are not enough.

“The pardons that are going to be issued by him and the pardon that will be issued by the Pope of the Catholic Church… they’re ok, but, there’s no deliverables for those pardons,” Sanderson said.

The archbishop vowed to “make available” anything in the possession of the archives of the Church of England.

Welby was scheduled to visit the Mohawk Institute in Brantford, Ont., where survivors are demanding the church disclose any records it has in its possession.

However, that portion of the archbishop’s trip was scrapped after survivors of one community said they wouldn’t participate unless the Anglican Church agreed to finance Indigenous language revitalization and release all records held in England.

The Prince Albert Grand Council, which hosted Archbishop Welby, said that part of the unfinished work requires all churches and the federal government to fulfill the 94 calls to action laid out by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The Grand Council is one of the largest tribal councils in Canada with a membership of over 44,000, representing 12 First Nations in Treaty 5, 6, 8 and 10 territories.

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