Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate (national archbishop) of the Anglican Church of Canada, says the Canadian churches “rejoice” that Prime Minister Stephen Harper plans to make the long-awaited apology to victims of abuse in residential schools on June 11.
Speaking to about 1,000 people at a rally on Parliament Hill May 29 as part of the National Day of Action in support of First Nations, Archbishop Hiltz, however, urged the government to consult with the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) in drafting the apology. “One by one the churches are expressing in written form their hope that the Prime Minister will honour his commitment to do this,” he said. “An apology must fully acknowledge the nature of the injury or injuries caused, and that this can only be discovered by talking directly with victims.”
(Earlier, on May 23, Archbishop Hiltz and Bishop Mark MacDonald, national indigenous bishop, wrote to Mr. Harper urging him “to make every effort possible” to consult the AFN about the federal government’s long-awaited apology over the now-defunct Indian residential schools system.)
Church leaders have declared June 8 as a day of national prayer for those preparing the apology and for the victims. Archbishop Hiltz said they hope “the text and the spirit in which the apology is delivered will signify an integrity on the part of the government to be honoured for years to come.”
The primate also called for consultation with First Nations on mining development “What many of us are hearing is the call to act on the moral obligation to consult, consult and to consult again,” he said.
Thousands of people took part in peaceful rallies across the country marking the second annual Day of Action.
Art Babych is editor of Crosstalk, the newspaper of the diocese of Ottawa.