Rev. J. Michael Miller, the present shepherd of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver, has penned a letter to all First Nations governments, Indigenous communities, families and citizens, expressing his “deep apology and profound condolences” following the news about the children’s bodies discovered in Kamloops.
“Each time new evidence of a tragedy is revealed, or another victim comes forward, countless wounds are reopened, and I know that you experience renewed suffering,” Miller writes.
He also gave a public apology before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2013, saying, “I wish to apologize sincerely and profoundly to the survivors and their families, as well as to all those subsequently affected, for the anguish caused by the deplorable conduct of those Catholics who perpetrated mistreatment of any kind in these residential schools.”
In the letter, Miller goes on to say the “Church was unquestionably wrong in implementing a government colonialist policy which resulted in devastation for children, families and communities.”
The Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc announced the discovery of the remains Thursday after ground-penetrating radar confirmed what members had long said about the former school, which had been the largest institution of its kind in Canada.
The school was operated mostly under a Catholic order called the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, founded in 1816.
The Catholic Church has so far refused to issue an official apology for its role in residential schools, even when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asked Pope Francis during a visit to the Vatican in 2017.
But Miller said on behalf of the people of the Archdiocese of Vancouver he is committed to being fully transparent with their archives and records regarding all residential schools, and he strongly urges all other Catholic and government organizations to do the same. “Our records regarding the Kamloops Indian Residential School (Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc) were provided to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and will remain available for review,” he said.
They will also offer mental health support and counselling for family members and anyone connected to the school and will offer to assist with technological and professional support to help the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc and “other affected Nations in whatever way they choose to honour, retrieve and remember their deceased children.”
Miller said they will also commit the same resources to any First Nation in whose terrorities “Catholic-run residential schools were forcibly located, and which fall within the historical boundaries of the Archdiocese of Vancouver.”
He added they recognize there is still so much work to be done but they are committed to doing it.
Anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of their residential school experience can access this 24-hour, toll-free and confidential National Indian Residential School Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419.