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The Church’s Relationship with Indigenous Peoples

Next week a delegation of Indigenous People and Canadian Bishops will make a trip to meet with Pope Francis in Rome.  As we watch the interactions from Canada, we are mindful of the work we must do to help all learn more about the dark history of our country and our Church when it comes to the relationship with Indigenous communities.  In that light we begin this ten part weekly series of notices:

Residential Schools: We are sorry. We apologize.

Archbishop Dunn has consistently expressed a deep desire to work towards healing and reconciliation with the MI’kmaq in the Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth.  He continues to express his sorrow and to apologize for the Catholic Church’s involvement in Indian Residential Schools. In keeping with the Calls to Actions given in the Truth and Reconciliation Report we want to provide people with an understanding of the residential school system in Canada.  It is hoped that greater knowledge and sensitivity to what happened will help in the ongoing work needed towards reconciliation.


To begin, I, the Archbishop, and we, the Catholic Church in Nova Scotia, are sorry and apologize for the part we played in the national residential school system. After the discovery of the remains of 215 children on the grounds of the former Kamloops Residential School I offered a Mass for their souls and apologized for the Church’s part in a deeply flawed system that caused long lasting damage to the Indigenous people of this land.  In my homily I shared what the Church has done and said in recent times and I reiterated my apology:

To all these apologies, on behalf of the Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth, I again apologize for the harm, violence and abuse caused in the operation of the residential school. I am personally committed to walking with our Mi’kmaq communities to find a process of healing and reconciliation regarding this tragic chapter of our history.

However, while these apologies deal with the actions of the past, I am most concerned with how our relationship with Indigenous People will continue to evolve.  This week I have spoken with Chief Norman Sylliboy, the Grand Chief of the Mi’kmaq, and expressed my horror to him.  I expressed mu commitment to working with the Grand Council in addressing this issue of residential schools in this local area.  As well I understand that two searches have been done at the Shubenacadie site seeking graves of children and nothing has been found.  I support these ongoing searches.


You can view the homily here.

For a more detailed understanding of what happened, please read the Truth and Reconciliation Report:, and scroll down to “Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future”.

For more information the relationship between the Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth and the local Mi’kmaq community go to:

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