National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald has called the first national meeting here of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) “a movement that can’t be stopped. This is a ceremony that’s just beginning.”
He said his high hopes for the “extraordinary, miraculous” event, Jun 16-19, “were exceeded” and expressed his appreciation for the way the TRC organized the event. “It was not just truth-telling and hearings in the western sense, but ceremony in which the truth was told…Survival was celebrated as well,” he said. “God came and was here listening to the hurts and the pain.”
He noted that while “there was some richly deserved anger, resentment of churches as institutions” most church leaders at the event felt welcome. “People have been extremely generous in…their acknowledgment that in some sense, everybody’s in this together,” he said. “I was surprised again and again of the warmth in which people received the message that was offered by the church and the distinction made by people…between Jesus and the church.”
Archdeacon Larry Beardy, diocese of Keewatin, said he would encourage former residential school students to attend future TRC events. When Beardy shared his own residential school experience during a one-hour private statement-taking session, “I felt lighter,” he said. Beardy attended the MacKay-Dauphin residential school off and on for nine years, starting when he was eight years old.
Beardy said that it felt good “to be told that my story is important, that it will be used for an educational purpose and kept in the archives for future generations to reflect on.”
He added: “It’s a start. I’ve been on a healing journey for a number of years… I’m an Anglican priest, so I must be doing something right,” he said.
During the event, churches that operated the 130 residential schools across Canada from the late 19th century to 1996 offered reflections and had some dialogue with native people at the “inter-faith tent.”
The Rev. Ian Morrison, former Life and Mission Agency General Secretary of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, expressed his commitment “to make sure my church knows the whole story.” Morrison said he has been on the healing journey for the last 19 years and has had his “heart broken again and again” whenever he hears stories of abuse. “This is another part of that journey…another turn in the road,” he said. “Hopefully I will have more of my fellow Presbyterians with me…we all have to get into the flow of this river as it moves on….”
The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Saint-Boniface, Albert LeGatt, underscored the importance of “re-establishing trust,” between churches and native people, which had been eroded by the residential school experience.
Other participants-both native and non-native-spoke of establishing “a new paradigm” of reconciliation, with some saying that what needs to be pursued really is “right relations.”