REUTERS — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged Canadians to unite on the eve of the first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation during a sombre ceremony on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday.
“Do not tell me or try to explain that the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation is a day for Indigenous Canadians. It is a day for all Canadians; it is all of us, it is all of our story,” he said.
Thursday, September 30, will mark the inaugural National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, a new statutory holiday among the 94 calls to action recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The holiday is meant to honour the lost Indigenous children, residential school survivors and the communities affected by the Indian residential school system in the country.
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops on Friday, Sept. 24, officially apologized for their role in the country’s notorious residential school system for the first time, after refusing to do so for years despite public pressure.
In a statement issued, the organization expressed “profound remorse” and apologized unequivocally along with all Catholic entities that were directly involved in the operation of the schools.
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops is the national assembly of bishops in Canada, formally recognized by the Catholic Church and part of a global network of conferences.
Starting in 1831 and as recently as 1996, Canada’s residential school system forcibly separated indigenous children from their families, subjecting them to malnourishment and physical and sexual abuse in what the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015 called “cultural genocide.”
Survivors who spoke with Reuters recalled perpetual hunger and haunting loneliness, with schools run under the threat and frequent use of force.
The Pope and the Catholic Church itself have refused to apologize for the church’s role, unlike the Anglican, Presbyterian and United Churches.
Global outrage around the lack of apology spread earlier this year after hundreds of unmarked graves of indigenous children were discovered at the sites of former residential schools across Canada.