Kevin Waugh (Saskatoon—Grasswood)
2018-04-26 16:20 [p.18844]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to share my time this afternoon with the hon. member for Mégantic—L’Érable.
I would also like to thank the hon. member for Timmins—James Bay for the motion that we have discussed throughout the day.
Today we are debating a motion that would invite the Pope again to respond to call to action 58, issued by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and make a formal apology to those who have suffered from their experience in the residential school system.
The Pope has been invited by the current Prime Minister and by former prime minister Stephen Harper, as well as Canadian bishops, individually but not collectively, to come to Canada. He has not had the opportunity to do so in the five years that he has been the head of the Catholic Church. The answer the Pope sent for call to action 58 was that at this time he was unable to personally respond.
His communiqué says:
Given the sufferings that some indigenous children experienced in the Canadian Residential School system, the Holy Father expressed his sorrow at the anguish caused by the deplorable conduct of some members of the Church and he offered his sympathy and prayerful solidarity. His Holiness emphasized that acts of abuse cannot be tolerated in society. He prayed that all those affected would experience healing, and he encouraged First Nations Peoples to continue to move forward with renewed hope.
The Catholic Church has issued many statements of regret, but I have not seen one that says “I am sorry” or “We apologize”. Pope Francis himself has said, “Inconsistency on the part of pastors and the faithful between what they say and what they do, between word and manner of life, is undermining the Church’s credibility”.
The Catholic Church was not the lone administrator of the residential school system. There were many others involved, including the Anglican, United, and Presbyterian churches. Let us look at what each of those had to say over the years.
Back in 1993, there was an apology from the Primate, Archbishop Michael Peers, to the National Native Convocation. It reads:
I accept and I confess before God and you, our failures in the residential schools. We failed you. We failed ourselves. We failed God.
I am sorry, more than I can say, that we were part of a system which took you and your children from home and family.
I am sorry, more than I can say, that we tried to remake you in our image, taking from you your language and the signs of your identity.
I am sorry, more than I can say, that in our schools so many were abused physically, sexually, culturally and emotionally.
On behalf of the Anglican Church of Canada, I present our apology.
The second is the 1986 apology to first nations peoples by the Right Reverend Bill Phipps and the General Council Executive of the United Church of Canada. It reads:
As Moderator of The United Church of Canada, I wish to speak the words that many people have wanted to hear for a very long time. On behalf of The United Church of Canada, I apologize for the pain and suffering that our church’s involvement in the Indian Residential School system has caused. We are aware of some of the damage that this cruel and ill-conceived system of assimilation has perpetrated on Canada’s First Nations peoples. For this we are truly and most humbly sorry.
To those individuals who were physically, sexually, and mentally abused as students of the Indian Residential Schools in which The United Church of Canada was involved, I offer you our most sincere apology. You did nothing wrong. You were and are the victims of evil acts that cannot under any circumstances be justified or excused.
The apology from the Presbyterian Church in Canada was adopted by the general assembly in 1994. It says in part:
We confess that The Presbyterian Church in Canada presumed to know better than Aboriginal peoples what was needed for life. The Church said of our Aboriginal brothers and sisters, “If they could be like us, if they could think like us, talk like us, worship like us, sing like us, and work like us, they would know God and therefore would have life abundant.” In our cultural arrogance we have been blind to the ways in which our own understanding of the Gospel has been culturally conditioned, and because of our insensitivity to Aboriginal cultures, we have demanded more of the Aboriginal people than the Gospel requires, and have thus misrepresented Jesus Christ who loves all peoples with compassionate, suffering love that all may come to God through him. For the Church’s, presumption we ask forgiveness.
It goes on to say:
We ask, also, for forgiveness from Aboriginal peoples. What we have heard we acknowledge. It is our hope that those whom we have wronged with a hurt too deep for telling will accept what we have to say. With God’s guidance our Church will seek opportunities to walk with Aboriginal peoples to find healing and wholeness together as God’s people.
These three churches have stood up and admitted they were wrong, and they have asked for forgiveness. They apologized. We have no such statement so far from the head of the Roman Catholic Church.
Reflecting back on residential schools, it was certainly a very dark time in our country. I remember when the Truth and Reconciliation Commission toured my province of Saskatchewan. I went to one of the hearings, a public hearing, as the commission members documented testimony. Story after story was told, some witnesses breaking down, others electing not to speak as the scars were obviously too deep to share that day.
A couple of weeks ago in this gallery, we honoured the actors and producers of Indian Horse. It is a film about residential school through the eyes of an Ojibway boy who found his escape by playing hockey. That film actually reminded me of Fred Sasakamoose. In fact, the producers brought Mr. Sasakamoose with them that day.
Freddy is a residential school survivor. He is a friend of mine; I’ve known him for close to 40 years. We have worked together for many years, raising money for kids’ sport, giving others less fortunate a chance to play sports.
For those who do not know Fred Sasakamoose, he was the first indigenous player ever to play on the National Hockey League. He lasted only eight games with the Chicago Blackhawks. Why? Because he became homesick and he needed to return home to Saskatchewan. For years and even decades, Freddy never talked about the residential schools, but later in his life, he has taken a lead role in talking about this in the province of Saskatchewan. He missed his real family and his culture. Now, he is a great spokesman for what has happened in the past. I should add, Fred will be invested in the Order of Canada next month in the city of Ottawa. This is one of our country’s highest civilian honours and Fred is deserving of this honour.
In my city of Saskatoon, organizers of the Wanuskewin Heritage Park have a dream. They have a dream that the Pope will some day come to their site and make a formal apology to residential school survivors. They are hoping for this to happen soon, possibly in 2018-19. It actually coincides with Wanuskewin being added to Canada’s tentative list for world heritage sites, and reaffirms the importance of this place. The group has already raised over $40 million in a very short time. It has been working hard to make improvements. I ask, will this be the stage for the Catholic Church and the Pope to apologize, to come to my city of Saskatoon and reach out to first nations peoples? The response of Pope Francis to the invitation so far has been very disappointing, but we are still hopeful.
I will leave the House with another quote from Pope Francis. He said:
But I am always wary of decisions made hastily. I am always wary of the first decision, that is, the first thing that comes to my mind if I have to make a decision. This is usually the wrong thing. I have to wait and assess, looking deep into myself, taking the necessary time
We live in hope.
Kevin Waugh (Saskatoon—Grasswood)
2018-04-26 16:32 [p.18846]
Mr. Speaker, I was part of the Saskatchewan School Boards Association for 10 years. It serves a lot of northern people in the province of Saskatchewan. I remember when the Truth and Reconciliation Commission came through Saskatchewan. As trustees, we were told that we must attend one of these sessions. It was the most uplifting session I ever attended. I talked about it a little in my speech because I had no idea what some of these people have gone through. There were some horrific stories.
I remember that day very well in Saskatoon Prairieland. It was jammed. There were probably 7,000 or 8,000 people there. Many people lined up. Many wanted to tell their story, but time ran out.
We can hope for acceptance from the Pope. We can only hope, as time will heal.
Kevin Waugh (Saskatoon—Grasswood)
2018-04-26 16:34 [p.18846]
Mr. Speaker, it is going to take time for each and every one of us in the country to understand the 94 calls to action. Number 58 is one of them. Today’s debate in the House of Commons has brought forth an awareness by each and every one of us, all 37 million in our country, to have a better understanding of the truth and reconciliation process.
We spent six years putting our testimony together. I remember that day in 2008. I was in a newsroom in Saskatchewan when then prime minister Stephen Harper gave the apology. Many members have talked about that day. I remember in the CTV newsroom in Saskatoon, there were tears. Every national network in the country televised the apology that day. It was an emotional day. Members might have had an emotional day here because the leaders were here, but everywhere in the country, there were tears shed 10 years ago, in 2008.