Archbishop Damphousse Apologizes on National Indigenous People’s Day

Archbishop Marcel Damphousse (Ottawa-Cornwall) has apologized for the Catholic Church’s role in Canada’s residential school system and has called on Pope Francis to follow suit.

(transcribed by Wawa-news)


Monday, June 21st is the National Indigenous People’s Day. This year the celebration is marred by the discovery of the remains of 215 children and youth at the residential school in Kamloops, BC.

The Catholic Church ran many residential schools at the request of the Federal Government and with the approval of the non-indigenous population of Canada at that time.

I am at a loss for words to describe this situation. In the past few weeks, I have been reading more and listening to better understand the reality of the Residential Schools, but also the impact it had on the Indigenous Peoples. As a Bishop, I join with other bishops and religious leaders in Canada expressing my apology for the role the Church played in the Residential School system. 

The accounts we heard, both in the Truth and Reconciliation Report and more recently in the past weeks of the experience of many Indigenous residential school students were shameful. As a church, we failed. Not only to be authentic witnesses to the goodness of Jesus Christ, but we sinned against our Brothers and Sisters in our care. 

Words can not undo the hurt or return the deceased children to their families. We know the lingering generational effects of the trauma on residential school students and their families.

As a member of the Catholic Church, and as a Bishop, I am so sorry. I know I am not alone in my sorrow and contrition. I add my voice to those who are asking the Holy Father, for an apology to the Indigenous Peoples of Canada.

Here in the Archdiocese of Ottawa/Cornwall, I have reached out for help, to the Kateri Native Ministry to learn how best to support our local indigenous community. I listened to requests for concrete actions we can take, including participating and promoting listening encounters with Indigenous Peoples in our Archdiocese. Working with Indigenous Peoples in providing education for clergy and parishioners, facilitated by members of the Indigenous Peoples. Encouraging the work of Reconciliation by listening to the Indigenous Peoples on the best ways to walk together on this path. 

I am also working on other actions that I hope to be able to announce soon.

As we celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day, I extend my sincere apology for the involvement of the Catholic Church in the Residential School System and I pray for healing, as the Church in Canada walks the path of reconciliation with the Indigenous People in our community.

Archbishop Marcel Damphousse