Timmins, ON: Newly elected Grand Chief of the Mushkegowuk Council, Alison Linklater, has been reflecting on Pope Francis’ recent apology. The papal apology was a way for the Catholic Church to acknowledge and address the widespread abuse, degradation, and violence suffered by children while they were incarcerated in Canada’s nation-wide Residential School System (a system that was in continuous operation until 1996). Grand Chief Linklater notes, in this regard, that “One of the most notorious institutions run by the Roman Catholic Church was St. Anne’s Residential School (1902-1976) in Fort Albany. Many of our First Nation members suffered in that dark place.” Additionally, the Roman Catholic Church also ran day schools in the Mushkegowuk area, including Christ the King School/Bishop Belleau School in Moosonee.”
The discovery of unmarked graves at other residential schools across Canada has had a tremendous impact on our people. Fort Albany and our other First Nations are beginning to contend with the process of searching for unmarked graves.
Grand Chief Linklater declares that “After waiting many years for the Pope’s apology, it is my hope this is one step on the path of reconciliation with the Church,” but also expressed support and respect for those who may not have accepted his apology, as, the Pope “did not acknowledge the role the Church itself played in running the schools and sheltering the abusers.”
The Grand Chief states that a crucial next step on the path of reconciliation would involve the Roman Catholic Church offering “access to all their records from the schools and financial support for healing under the IRS Settlement Agreement.”
The Grand Chief concludes that “It is my hope that as Mushkegowuk people we will continue to support each other in dealing with these heart-wrenching issues and that we will find a healing path where we can move forward together.”