ethics religion

Truth and Reconciliation

September 30th is Canada’s National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The holiday is also sometimes called Orange Shirt Day and recognizes the legacy of the Canadian Indian residential school system. Wearing an orange shirt on this day honours both the indigenous children who never returned home and also the survivors of residential schools, as well as their families and communities.

The schools in Lethbridge (and across the country) have been doing activities and presentations all week building up to this day. I think it’s so important that we continue to collectively acknowledge the harm that residential schools caused.

Both my son (4) and daughter (5) have been very concerned about the stories they’ve heard about the woman1 who had her orange shirt taken away and not given back. They seem to have a pretty good, age appropriate, understanding of the traumatic impact these schools imparted.

I want to point out though, as Canadians share in the collective guilt of the day, one glaring omission is the often-overlooked, deeply disturbing role that the Catholic Church played in the atrocities committed at residential schools. While the reprehensible actions of the church in exploiting children within its congregation are widely acknowledged, it is equally vital to recognize the dark chapter of history where indigenous children, torn from their families, were also subjected to the church’s predation.

I don’t doubt there were also many abuses in residential schools outside Catholic control, but from the sounds of things2, that’s where the bulk of the sexual exploitation happened. I think acknowledging the church’s role should be a a major part of the truth in “Truth and Reconciliation”.

As we come together to commemorate Canada’s National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and wear our orange shirts in honor of those affected, it’s essential that we acknowledge the elephant in the room — the painful role played by the Catholic Church in these grievous acts.

  1. Phyllis Webstad has written multiple books depicting her experience with the Indian residential school system[]
  2. The Daily episode State-Sponsored Abuse in Canada from July 16, 2023 covers it[]