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Residential Schools and the Catholic Church


The legacy of Canada’s residential school system for Indigenous peoples — a system of education remained in operation for over a century (from approximately 1876 to the final school closure in 1996) — left generations broken by the experience. The Truth and Reconciliation Report of 2015 convincingly argues that the residential school system was an integral part of a larger government initiative that amounted to an attempt at “cultural genocide,” in that its goal was the eradication of Indigenous cultures. The Catholic Church was responsible for the operation of the majority of the schools, with a large number, including some of the most notorious, run specifically by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.

Dr. D.W. Lafferty writes that when he first learned of the residential school issue, he initially dismissed the findings and demands of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and saw the emphasis on residential schools as a one-sided attack on the Church; eventually, though, I took the time to learn and listen, and it changed my mind completely. He hopes his perspective may be helpful given that there are still North American Catholics who are skeptical and in some cases dismiss the experiences of Indigenous peoples. He will discuss the general history, the response of the Catholic Church, and the mood of Canadians today.