The Truth and Reconciliation Commissioners Chief Wilton Littlechild, Justice Murray Sinclair and Marie Wilson unveil the final TRC report in Ottawa Dec. 15.


The Truth and Reconciliation Commissioners Chief Wilton Littlechild, Justice Murray Sinclair and Marie Wilson unveil the final TRC report in Ottawa Dec. 15.

January 11, 2016

The Alberta bishop with a leading role in the reconciliation process with Indian residential schools says a growth in understanding requires grassroots action.

"It isn't by making laws you are going to overcome racism," said Archbishop Gerard Pettipas of Grouard-McLennan.

"Look at what's continuing to happen in the United States with black Americans," Pettipas said. "You still have white cops killing black kids.

"A lot has to happen at the grassroots and for people to come to a conversion in their own hearts about the issues. That takes time. We're going to be at this reconciliation project for a long time."

Pettipas is president of the 50 Catholic entities, the legal body formed to respond to the litigation that led to the 2007 Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.

The archbishop said the Truth and Reconciliation Commission members, who released their final report Dec. 15, also knew there was more work to do.

The report built on the June executive summary that referred to what happened to Aboriginal Canadians in residential schools as "cultural genocide."

"They knew from the beginning they weren't going to bring about reconciliation," Pettipas said, praising the final report for its thoroughness.

"There is not a stone unturned on the history of the schools; the history before the schools; the way the schools came to a slow and gradual halt; and what has proceeded after the schools in terms of education. It's comprehensive," he said.

The residential schools were established and paid for by the federal government in the late 1800s, but were administered by organizations of several churches, including the Catholic Church, which ran about 60 per cent of them.

The commission was to create a public record of the tragedy of Indian residential schools and to examine the ongoing fallout of a 130-year policy that separated 150,000 Aboriginal children from their families.

By witnessing the stories of many of the 80,000 survivors and documenting the cultural and societal devastation to families, the commission said it hoped to cultivate reconciliation between Aboriginal people and the rest of Canada.

At the release of the final TRC report, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised action in response.


Trudeau announced his government "will work with leaders of First Nations and the Metis Nation, Inuit, provinces and territories, parties to the residential schools settlement agreement and other key partners to design a national engagement strategy for developing and implementing a national reconciliation framework including a formal response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action."

Justice Murray Sinclair, who chaired the commission, expressed hope that Pope Francis would answer the commission's request for a papal apology - in Canada - for Indian residential schools.


"Pope Francis' recent willingness to acknowledge the past offences of his Church in South America toward the indigenous peoples there also gives us hope that he, on behalf of the Catholic Church, will issue an apology to the survivors of residential schools in this country," Sinclair said.

Trudeau said he would discuss the proposal with Pope Francis.

Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi, Canada's papal nuncio, said Pope Francis is postponing visits to some Italian cities that had already been planned so he can be in Rome for the Year of Mercy.

"It seems the agenda for 2016 is totally filled," the Nuncio said. "There is, in my opinion, no room for a visit in 2016."