Anglican church leader apologizes to residential school survivors at Saskatchewan First Nation

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Archbishop of Canterbury apologizes to residential school survivors
Archbishop of Canterbury Reverend Justin Welby visited James Smith Cree Nation on Saturday, where he heard accounts from survivors of Canada’s residential school system. While there, he apologized to survivors. Nathaniel Dove reports – Apr 30, 2022

Warning: This article contains information regarding harm suffered at residential schools that may be disturbing to some readers.

Residential school survivors had a chance to share their stories with the leader of the Anglican church on Saturday.

Archbishop of Canterbury Reverend Justin Welby visited James Smith Cree Nation along with Chakastaypasin Band of the Cree Nation and Peter Chapman Band.

While there, he apologized to survivors.

“I am sorry. I am more sorry than I can say,” Welby said. “I am ashamed. I am horrified. I ask myself, where does that come from — that evil. It has nothing, nothing to do with Christ.”

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“It is the lowest, wickedest, most terrible thing to molest a child while you read them the Bible,” Welby said.

The apology follows a day of listening to searing accounts from people who suffered in residential schools. The community event featured a pipe ceremony, honour song, opening prayer/reading of the Gospel, and welcoming remarks.

There was also a blessing of the food, lunch, a drum group and dance, speeches by dignitaries, and a community tour ending with a supper.
Residential school survivor Rhonda Sanderson said Welby needed to understand the pain wrought.

“The churches have to take responsibility and apologize for the atrocities that happened in the residential schools and today was a monumental day,” Sanderson said.

Sanderson, her parents and her grandparents attended residential school.

She said although the heartfelt apology helps, she wants to see action.

“Do what you’re saying. Don’t just say something and not do anything because that’s most disheartening,” Sanderson said.

Dennis Sanderson was also one of the survivors present.
“The abuse, the sexual abuse, the many things that happened to me… it hurts,” he told reporters.

Sanderson was forced to attend George Gordon Indian Residential School, in Saskatchewan.

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Click to play video: 'Archbishop of Canterbury to meet Saskatchewan residential school survivors'
Archbishop of Canterbury to meet Saskatchewan residential school survivors

Last week the George Gordon First Nation Chief said they had discovered 14 possible gravesites at the location of the former residential school.

The facility was just one of nearly three dozen residential schools run by the Anglican Church between 1820 and 1969. Dennis says Welby needs to know the damage the Church of England inflicted upon children — many of whom still carry that trauma.

Dennis wanted an apology.

“For the Anglican Church to say, ‘I’m sorry.’ For the Roman Catholic Church to say, ‘I’m sorry” — I accept that,” Sanderson said.

Welby says it’s impossible to know all the stories but wants to become deeply aware of his lack of knowledge.

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Welby added that he will continue to listen but says the Canadian Church must lead efforts to build beyond an apology. He doesn’t plan to visit other First Nations.

“The Anglican Church of Canada is the Anglican Church of Canada and I’m from overseas. It is not for me to interfere,” he said.
On Sunday, Welby will visit an Indigenous Gathering at the Prince Albert Exhibition (PAX) at 2 p.m. after Sunday services at the St. Alban’s Anglican Cathedral in Prince Albert.

A media advisory states the visit is a chance for Welby to meet Indigenous and Anglican leaders, and to listen to the stories and concerns of residential school survivors.

Welby is expected to make an official statement on Sunday.

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