Archbishop of Canterbury promises release of boarding school records in England following pleas from survivors
The Archbishop of Canterbury says he will ensure that all records relating to boarding schools held by the Anglican Church in England are released, following appeals from survivors.
The church is facing demands from survivors who attended the former Mohawk Institute in Brantford, Ont., to release all records held overseas in hopes they can shed light on the true number of children who died at boarding school and where they are buried.
“Anything in the possession of Church of England records will be made available,” Justin Welby said in a media scrum on Saturday during a visit to James Smith’s Cree Nation, about 200 kilometers away. northeast of Saskatoon.
Welby was originally scheduled to visit the former site of the Anglican-run institute, which is now the Woodland Cultural Centre, during his cross-Canada trip, which runs from April 29 to May 3.
The meeting, however, was canceled after survivors of Six Nations of the Grand River, a Haudenosaunee community near Hamilton, Ontario, said they would not attend unless the Anglican Church pledged to fund the revitalization of native languages and to publish all documents held in England.
“If they’re not willing to do it, then there’s no sincerity in it,” said Roberta Hill, a member of the Survivor Secretariat, a survivor-led group conducting ground search efforts in the old school.
“They can’t go through subsequent generations and say, ‘You know what? We said we were sorry. Let’s put that aside and move on.
“No, they owe our community, all of our communities.”
A survivor says the truth is more necessary than an apology
Welby was scheduled to meet some members of Six Nations at the headquarters of the Anglican Church of Canada in downtown Toronto at a reception scheduled for Monday afternoon.
He will no longer be able to attend due to a flight cancellation.
During a visit to Saskatchewan over the weekend, Welby apologized for the Anglican Church allowing terrible crimes, sins and evils to occur in residential schools, which he said amounted to cultural genocide.
“I’m more sorry than I could ever, ever begin to express,” he told survivors gathered at James Smith’s Cree Nation.
“Moving a child while you read the Bible to him, how can a human being do that and look in the mirror?”
The Anglican Church of Canada has twice apologized to survivors, but this is the first time the Chief Archbishop of the Church of England has apologized.
The Canadian church’s first apology came in 1993 and then in 2019 when the leader of the Anglican Church of Canada apologized in an open letter for the church’s “cultural and spiritual arrogance”, which , in her view, has caused harm to Indigenous peoples.
For Hill, who attended the Mohawk Institute from 1957 to 1961 and suffered abuse, the apology rings hollow.
“What I want is the truth,” she said. “There was something going on in this country and it was an attack on indigenous children.”
The food was so bad at the Mohawk Institute that students nicknamed it the “Mush Hole”.
Children were punished for speaking their language and forced to practice Christianity.
The institution, run from 1828 to 1970 by the Anglican Church and the Government of Canada, was the oldest residential school in Canada. Between 90 and 200 children were forced to attend school each year from Six Nations and various other communities, according to the Survivors Secretariat.
Documents about the beginnings of the Mohawk Institute are believed to be held in England
The Survivors Secretariat sent a letter to the office of the church primate on April 12 stating that they would be willing to meet with Welby, as long as he was prepared to discuss how the Anglican Church would provide financial support for the revitalization of indigenous communities. languages.
The letter also asked for help in recovering records from the New England Company, which originally ran the Mohawk Institute, according to the secretariat. The Diocese of Huron then took over the operation of the school.
Documents related to the early days of the institution are believed to be found in England.
“We don’t have them and yet we know that the New England Company was very involved in the boarding school from the very beginning of the establishment of the Mohawk Institute boarding school,” Hill said.
“It’s part of our history.”
Welby noted on Saturday that the New England Company is separate from the Church of England, but pledged to push for the release of all records of Anglican-run boarding schools.
“I will definitely use my influence to do this and push for this to happen,” he said. “I promise I will.”
Hill said the documents could shed light on the gravesites of 48 children who died at school, according to the National Center for Truth and Reconciliation.
“Where are they buried? said Hill. “We didn’t see any markers… There must be accountability.”
In addition to the papers, survivors are also seeking funds to help revive Indigenous languages that residential schools sought to eliminate.
“When I see how damaging the residential school system was, it was a big part of destroying language and culture,” Hill said.
“The churches themselves, they are financially responsible for helping. We shouldn’t have to struggle with that.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury will speak to the Pope about his visit
Welby did not commit to providing that funding over the weekend.
But he said he would work with Anglican bishops at the Lambeth conference in August to decide how to support survivors in the future.
“I want to underpromise and overperform rather than overpromise and underperform, which is too much of a part of our history,” Welby said.
“The way it seems to me we have to start is how do we recognize what has been done, the cultural genocide, how do we make sure it’s remembered and taught and learned, and then how do we look at the process of healing? “
The Anglican Church had 36 boarding schools — the most after the Roman Catholic Church — and more than 150 Indian day schools between 1820 and 1969.
The Anglican Church of Canada also contributed $15.7 million, as required by the residential schools settlement.
The church was reimbursed $2.8 million, which it said it invested in Indigenous ministry programs, after a different compensation formula was negotiated with the Roman Catholic Church.
The Survivors Secretariat suggested that the Archbishop’s visit be postponed to allow time to develop appropriate Indigenous protocols.
The Office of the Primate replied that the visit would not be on the agenda and that if a future visit was desired, they would need a direct invitation from Six Nations.
Welby’s visit comes just months before Pope Francis is due to visit Canada in July to advance reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.
The couple are due to travel to South Sudan just before the pontiff travels to Canada.
“I will have the opportunity to discuss with him what I learned from this,” Welby said.