March 29, 2007 13:43 ET

United Church Calls for a Full National Apology to First Nations

Attention: Assignment Editor, City Editor, News Editor, Government/Political Affairs Editor TORONTO, ONTARIO, NEWS RELEASE--(CCNMatthews - March 29, 2007) - Nothing less than a full national apology by the Canadian government to Canada's Aboriginal peoples is acceptable, says The United Church of Canada.

The church's statement was released today in response to comments made earlier this week by Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice indicating that the Conservative government would not issue an apology as a part of its Settlement Agreement with survivors of Indian Residential Schools.

"It is completely unacceptable for the Harper government to use the fact that an apology was not part of the Settlement Agreement as an excuse not to apologize," says the Rev. James Scott, the United Church's General Council Officer for Residential Schools. "After all, the Common Experience Payment, which is a central component of the Agreement, recognizes the systemic harms that were inherent in the education policy of operating residential schools."

Scott says the United Church has consistently pressed the Canadian government to include a full national apology as part of its response to the legacy of residential schools. In a letter to Minister Prentice in August 2006, the United Church's then Moderator, the Right Rev. Peter Short, wrote:

"It is our concern that the Agreement, which attempts to address the harm done to former students, will seem hollow and disingenuous if a national apology does not accompany its implementation. Indeed, we are aware that from the standpoint of those most affected, those with whom we are attempting to set things right, an apology is central to the true spirit of reconciliation."

Scott says, "We believe that a national apology, partnered with the Settlement Agreement, will be a historic step toward closing this tragic chapter of our past and fostering a new and positive spirit in which to work together with all Aboriginal peoples towards a more just and promising future."

Scott adds that the United Church itself is endeavouring to address the range of harms perpetrated against Aboriginal children in the schools through abuse settlements, healing initiatives, full disclosure and acknowledgement of this history, and sincere efforts toward reconciliation and right relations. The United Church of Canada first apologized to First Nations peoples in August 1986 and then in 1998 offered a formal apology to former students of residential schools, their families, and communities.

"We all need to be accountable for the legacy of residential schools, and must press the government to apologize on our behalf," says Scott. "It is a living legacy, the pain is in the present. Apology can be a significant step toward healing our broken relationships."
/For further information: Mary-Frances Denis
Communications Officer
The United Church of Canada
416-231-7680 ext 2016 (business)
416-885-7478 (cell)
416-766-0057 (home)

Contact Information

  • Mary-Frances Denis, Communications Officer, The United Church of Canada
    Primary Phone: 416-231-7680 ext. 2016
    Secondary Phone: 416-885-7478