The history of Canada’s residential school system, which aimed to assimilate Indigenous children, is a somber chapter in the nation’s story.

Around 150,000 Indigenous children were relocated and schooled in the 19th and 20th centuries. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada indicates that more than 4,000 of these children tragically lost their lives.

Recently, a comprehensive search for unmarked graves, spurred by the discovery of anomalies in Pine Creek First Nation, was undertaken by Indigenous communities and found no human remains. Chief Derek Nepinak of Pine Creek First Nation, reflecting on the search, stated: “The results of the excavation take nothing away from the difficult truths experienced by our families who attended the residential school in Pine Creek.”

However, questions around the reporting of these graves have emerged.

Peter Stockland, writing for Canada’s Catholic Register, expressed the importance of precision: “There’s zero evidence of a national urge to airbrush such history… The justification offered is a stated desire for a truly accurate historical picture.”

Amidst these challenges, the Catholic Church’s leaders in Canada have reaffirmed their commitment to supporting Indigenous communities.

Archbishop Richard Gagnon of Winnipeg emphasized, “It is the priority of the bishops at this time to lead the Church in finding ways to walk with Indigenous peoples… to apologize when appropriate for suffering experienced within Church-operated institutions, and to be allies in the pursuit of justice.”

The journey for truth is ongoing, and the Catholic Church stands in solidarity with Indigenous communities, seeking healing, justice and understanding for all.

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