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Regina Archbishop says church felt ‘good pressure’ to start new Indigenous fundraiser

Archbishop Don Bolen of the Regina Archdiocese. Dave Parsons / Global News

Update: The Saskatchewan Catholic TRC Healing Response has raised $87,567.58 at the end of the first week.

The Regina Archbishop told Global News the archdiocese felt pressure to raise more money for residential school survivors and Indigenous communities, something he called “good pressure.”

Five bishops in and near Saskatchewan announced earlier this week that a fundraising appeal had been launched called the Catholic TRC Healing Response.

Read more: Archbishop of Regina apologizes after the discovery of an estimated 751 unmarked graves

Indigenous and non-Indigenous people had spoken out about the need to raise money in the wake of unmarked grave discoveries at former residential school sites.

“We certainly hear that the Moving Forward Together collection, which did not go very well, was not a place to end,” Archbishop Don Bolen told Global News.

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The Moving Forward Together fundraiser was initiated in 2006 and aimed to raise $25 million for residential school survivors and their families. It fell short of its goal by $21 million and has been criticized by the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations.

Click to play video: 'FSIN calls on Catholic Church to follow through with compensating residential school survivors' FSIN calls on Catholic Church to follow through with compensating residential school survivors
FSIN calls on Catholic Church to follow through with compensating residential school survivors – Jun 30, 2021

Bolen said this is a new collection that is aiming for a similar goal of raising funds for healing and reconciliation projects.

The new fundraiser is still in the planning stages as it begins to collect dollars. A timeline and goal are expected to be announced by September.

A consulting process will be involved, in which church leadership will hear from the Indigenous community about where money should be allocated.

Bolen said he has had four or five conversations with survivors and elders from groups in the Regina region and from other First Nations communities, as well as with the FSIN.

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“Raising money is one thing, building relations is another. Doing the two of them together has rich potential,” Bolen said.

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Archbishop Don Bolen on building relations with Indigenous community – Jul 17, 2021

Bolen added the dioceses are looking at how this fundraising effort can strengthen its relationships with particular parties.

“One of the things that we hope to gain out of that is particular projects that we could support,” Bolen said about the consulting process.

“We’ve heard from survivors and elders a strong request of, ‘don’t just give the money to organizations, give them to us for tangible projects.’ Of course, we want the allocation of funds to be Indigenous-led as well,” Bolen said.

Read more: Military forensic team could help identify residential school remains: officials

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On Thursday, Bolen attended a large gathering with elders and survivors on Cote First Nation, nearly 300 kilometres northeast of Regina.

Bolen called it “a powerful experience.”

“People had the opportunity to speak their pain, their suffering connected to residential schools and to say what they would like to see in terms of support, where they think reparation is needed, what they would see as helpful gestures or actions on behalf of the church going forward.”

Bolen said he believes nothing is more important than listening to the voices of survivors or those who have suffered from intergenerational trauma from residential schools.

Currently, the archdiocese is in the middle of a capital campaign to renovate a new cathedral, so Bolen said they are looking at how they can modify or adjust that campaign in order to also focus on the TRC healing response fund.

Read more: More remains possibly found at another Saskatchewan residential school site

The archdiocese is also looking at how they can invite parishioners to engage with the campaign.

Online donations to the campaign can be made on the archdiocese’ website.

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