That, in responding to the call of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to move our nation on a path of true healing for the crimes of the residential school era, the House:
(a) invite Pope Francis to participate in this journey with Canadians by responding to Call to Action 58 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report and issue a formal papal apology for the role of the Canadian Catholic Church in the establishment, operations, and abuses of the residential schools;
(b) call upon the Canadian Catholic Church to live up to their moral obligation and the spirit of the 2006 Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement and resume best efforts to raise the full amount of the agreed upon funds; and
(c) call on the Catholic entities that were involved in the running of the residential schools to make a consistent and sustained effort to turn over relevant documents when called upon by survivors of residential schools, their families, and scholars working to understand the full scope of the horrors of the residential school system in the interest of truth and reconciliation.
Mr. Speaker, as always, it is a great honour to stand in this House representing the people of Timmins—James Bay, and today particularly, with my colleague from Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, to also be speaking with the support of the survivors, who are watching this Parliament do the right thing.
Today is a historic moment for the Parliament of Canada. It was the Parliament of Canada that created the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to examine the evidence, the documents, and the testimony concerning the residential schools era. In the course of its investigation, the commission found that the policies of the Government of Canada and the Catholic Church at the time constituted a genocide.
The word “genocide” is very specific and very important. Why did the commission declare the residential school system a genocide? Based on the definition of “genocide”, it is clear that the policy of taking women and children away from their families in order to erase their identity constitutes a genocide. It is therefore crucial for the Parliament of Canada to respond to the commission, specifically by inviting Pope Francis to take part in our reconciliation process.
Today we are very confident that the Pope is capable of understanding the importance of this motion, because he has a vision of reconciliation and justice for all. The Pope must play a positive and proactive role with the Parliament of Canada and indigenous communities by issuing a formal apology.
In beginning this morning, I want to say that I never talk about faith or my own personal faith in the House. I do not believe it is appropriate. I feel that politicians often cheapen faith when they use it. However, I want to say how thrilled I was when Pope Francis was appointed, because he was a Jesuit.
I have had the great honour in my life of being influenced by and knowing Jesuits: the great Jim Webb, who worked in the co-operative movement in Cape Breton and worked in the third world and the inner cities of Toronto; Father Martin Royackers, murdered by gangs in Jamaica when standing up for the homeless; and Father Michael Czerny, who married my wife and I, who went into El Salvador in the face of the death squads to defend the poor.
What I learned from the Jesuits is that as Christians, faith is not good enough to be charity. It has to be systemic. It is about changing the systems that keep people down.
I am very confident that Pope Francis, who has spoken up on justice around the world, will hear the call of the Parliament of Canada and the cry of indigenous people to do the right thing now and close this dark, horrific chapter.
I want to say that I have been appalled by the line I heard from the Canadian bishops. They have tried to evade their role in working with us on reconciliation. We will talk today about the collusion of the federal government and the church. They have followed a pattern time and time again of defending, covering up, and hiding for each other. It all comes back to liability. It all comes back to money.
Does anyone think the survivors are here for money? When we talk with the survivors of St. Anne's residential school, who suffered such depravity, such horrors, and we see their dignity, they are not here for money.
As one man said to me last night, he came 12 hours to hear three words. This is about that. They have shown more reconciliation in the face of legal obstructions, challenges, and horrific crimes.
As another person said this to me. Imagine the worst horror story ever made and put children in it and that would not begin to cover what happened at St. Anne's Residential School. That was done through the deliberate policy and collusion. It is not just about St. Anne's, but I am speaking about it because I know the survivors and it is is in my region.
The Hill Times said:
...Pope Francis, who has worked to make compassion and justice the guiding light of his pontificate, would be more at home with the St. Anne residential survivors than he might be with some of the Canadian bishops who...to care more about its wallet than the Gospel.
Let us talk about how this started. We learned that policy was established to destroy the Indian people in our country. That was the finding of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Duncan Campbell Scott articulated the policy:
I want to get rid of the Indian problem....That is my whole point. Our objective is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic, and there is no Indian question, and no Indian Department...
Government officials worked hard to achieve that policy. In 1892, they issued the order in council on funding. They established what was the bare minimum that could be spent to keep a child alive. Then they ensured that the money they gave the church was at least 25% lower than that. The results were horrific death rates.
Peter Henderson Bryce was a civil servant who saw the death rates in western Canada, and was appalled. He articulated a 24% death rate, which was higher than the death rates of Canadian soldiers going into the trenches in Flanders.
At the File Hills Indian Residential School there was a 69% death rate among children, overall a 40% death rate. These were death camps. However, Peter Henderson Bryce began to expose it and because he did, it forced the government to make changes.
He was not the only one speaking out. Church leaders spoke up. I think of Samuel H. Blake of the Missionary Society of the Church of England who was horrified by the treatment of the children. He wrote to Archdeacon Tims who ran the Old Sun Industrial School in Calgary. He said:
How...can you be satisfied with statistics which show that...900 to 1,000 children which pass through our Indian schools 300 of them pass out...to the grave within...twevle years I cannot conceive except upon this hypothesis that we grow callous amidst such a frightful death rate.
In 1945, an American writer, who was analyzing Canada's Indian policy, said simply that the government's policy was the extinction of Indian as Indians.
That is why we are here. For the Catholic Church to state, in 2018, that as a whole it was not involved in the running of the residential schools veers dangerously into the road of historical revisionism. The bishops promoted the policy. The bishops oversaw it. The bishops worked hand-in-hand with the federal government and covered up at every step of the way.
The documents were seized in the St. Anne's investigation. I want to thank the Ontario Provincial Police for the incredible work it did standing up and insisting that the documents be received. It took those documents from the orders and found documents that went all the way to the Curia Generalis in Rome about the crimes at St. Anne's. The Vatican was involved. The Church of Canada was involved. The bishops were involved.
They had a practice called “bleeding the children” to feed the mother house. The minimum monies that were given by the federal government to the residential schools, the orders took a tax so they could pay for their amenities in the mother house of the church. They think they are worried about liability. They got off scot-free. Woe to those who put such burdens when they had the obligation to do right.
Today the Catholic church is involved very deeply. It is cold comfort for the survivors of St. Anne's residential school to know that the church has access to all the documents. The church has access to the names of all the survivors who have been so brave to come forward. The church gets to oversee that as the defendant.
Therefore, for the church to be surprised that we are here is not good enough. What we are doing today is the call from Isaiah. We are called to be the repairer of those broken streets and city walls to restore communities to dwell. Edmund Metatawabin said that they were not here for reconciliation, that they were here for reclamation, to rebuild their communities, to rebuild their children and their grandchildren so they could move forward. They are not here for the money; they are here for someone to do right.
In the time I have left, it is important we talk about the role of complicity. I want to speak today of 14-year-old John Kioke and 12-year-old Michel Matinas from Attawapiskat, and 12-year-old Michel Sutherland from Weenusk, who never came home. Many children never came home from St. Anne's.
When I went into those communities, they asked me what happened to their uncles and to their cousins. We found out that these boys were so desperate to escape the criminal abuse that was happening that they took their lives in their hands in April 1941, when the James Bay rivers are overflowing, and tried to find their way home. They never got there. Father Paul Langlois told the children to keep their mouths shut about what had happened at the school.
I mention this because it was a year later when the federal government found out about the deaths of these children. It did not call the school; it called Bishop Belleau and asked why he had covered it up. He said that the boys were deserters. Therefore, the bishops oversaw this.
I want to read from a letter of 1968 from teachers who were hired at St. Anne's residential school, because there were good teachers, good brothers and good nuns. However, they were always pushed out because they were not cruel enough or sick enough to stay in those institutions. Six teachers went to St. Anne's and were fired. They wrote to Jean Chrétien and said that they were told by the Department of Indian Affairs that it was easier to replace the teachers than to deal with what was happening at St. Anne's.
In a teacher's handwritten letter, she said, “although we may have not understood the implications of working at a mission school...we were employed by the Department of Indian Affairs.” She begged Jean Chrétien. She said, “if there is anything I can do to help these Indian people...and help“ the helpless children, “I will happily do it.” She continued, it “was not possible to give up basic beliefs about human rights and dignity and still face the children who are forced to live in such a sterile, rigid, unloving atmosphere.” Why do I mention that? Because the children had no voice. They had no one to go to. The Government of Canada was not going to help them. Imagine if the government had. Some of the most brutal crimes and abuses were happening then.
I refer the House to an Ontario Provincial Police document from that time, when the children of St. Anne's approached Bishop Laguerrier at a big event to tell him about the sexual abuse. They had no one else to go to other than him. They sat with him and told him what was happening, and the bishop told them that it was the fatherly way. What we know now of course is that Bishop Jules Laguerrier was one of the most prolific predators.
When the federal government was told to turn over the documents for the IAP for the St. Anne's survivors, the government turned over a person of interest report on Reverend Father Jules Laguerrier that was one page long. It was his biographical information saying when he was at St. Anne's. It was not until the survivors starting demanding answers that it turned out the government was sitting on a person of interest report referring to this bishop, a 3,191 pages long report describing the crimes he committed.
The same happened with the person of interest report for Reverend Father Raymond-Marie Lavoie, which had a two-page report supplied to the independent assessment process. It included brief notes, but it not include the fact that the federal government and the church both had the documents, 2,472 pages long, on Father Lavoie that listed his crimes. Sister Anna Wesley's person of interest report was 6,804 pages long.
The children had no one to go to. They were in the hands of these sadists. That is why we are here to do the right thing, to say that this was a policy and not accidental. The fact is that these people were protected, they got away with it, and they are still getting away with it even beyond the grave. The survivors of St. Anne's Residential School had their cases thrown own because these documents were not supplied. They are asking for closure.
We can talk about the financial indemnifications. All the Christian orders have been involved in the formal apologies. All the Christian orders paid their share. We could use the legal weasel words to say that certain dioceses were not involved. However, the greatest amount of money that came from the Anglican Church came through the diocese of Toronto, which did not have residential schools there. The Anglican people of Toronto knew they had an obligation to do the right thing.
The Catholic Church was ordered to pay its share, and most of it was supposed to be “monies in kind”. Really, after all that. We do not really have any clue of how much of that monies in kind was ever paid. However, we do know that the church was obligated to pay a $25 million payment, but walked away from it on a legal loophole. I am not blaming the Conservative or Liberal government on this. There was a legal loophole and the church walked on it.
We have no legal power over the church in Parliament to tell it to pay, but, my God, it is a moral obligation for the church to pay what it owes, because it got off scot-free for the crimes that were committed, and not just at Ste. Anne's but around the country. It is about doing the right thing.
These documents, these letters, this proof that validates what these survivors went through and survived mean something. It is why the Truth and Reconciliation Commission called on each of the orders in each of the Christian faiths to turn over those documents and photos. Children were taken away and never came home, and there is not even a record of them.
I was in Marten Falls on the 100th anniversary of the signing of Treaty 9. We went up the river. Duncan Campbell Scott came in his canoe to sign it with the people of Ogoki Post. On that 100th anniversary, a man stepped forward and started to speak in Oji-Cree. He apologized that he did not speak English. He said that he had never learned to speak it because they came and took his sister away and never brought her home. Nobody ever told him what happened. The next year when the white man came, his parents hid him in bush. They hid him year after year, every time the white man came to take the children.
I think of that man's family and the faith I grew up with where my aunts were nuns, powerful women of justice. I think of the mercy that was shown to me. I think of the fact that nobody even came to tell he and his family that they took their daughter, that she had died and was in some unmarked grave someplace. Nobody had the decency. Those are the crimes for that have to be atoned for.
Today is a good day. It is a hopeful day. It is a day that we come to terms with what was done through the collusion of the church and the state working hand-in-hand to try to destroy the Indian identity. However, that identity has not been destroyed. That identity is stronger than ever. Those people are watching like a jury over this Parliament, telling us to do the right thing, admit the wrong, and then they can move on.