Residential Schools & The Church

How the Church Influenced the Closure of Residential Schools

How was the Church involved in the opening of residential schools?

Given that one of the primary 'goals' on the agenda of opening residential schools was to assimilate Indigenous peoples into European culture, an element of this aim was to also assimilate Indigenous peoples into European religious traditions. Thus, "[d]uring the 19th century, both the Methodist and Presbyterian churches were highly committed to universal public education" and "[w]ith rare exceptions, the national policy of assimilation was not questioned by the churches." (http://www.united-church.ca/aboriginal/schools/faq/history)

What prompted members of the Church to begin questioning the morality of residential schools?

One of the main things that prompted members of the Church to begin questioning their support of residential schools was knowledge. As information about how the schools were run became more public, "concerns about the impact of residential schools continued to be voiced by a prophetic minority within the church and became more common among United Church persons with knowledge about the system during the post-war period" (http://www.united-church.ca/aboriginal/schools/faq/history#2).

Relevant Dates to the Closure of Residential Schools

When did the Church really begin to remove its support of residential schools?

Many different churches eventually closed their residential schools and later issued official apologies to those affected. For example, the "questioning of residential schools and the role of the church in them became more intense in the 1960s, culminating with the withdrawal of the last remaining United Church involvement in 1969" (http://www.united-church.ca/aboriginal/schools/faq/history#2)


Relevant church-issued apologies include:

1986: The United Church of Canada formally apologizes to Canada's First Nations people.

1991: The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate offers an apology to Canada's First Nations people. Read this pdf of their apology.

1993: The Anglican Church offers an apology to Canada's First Nations people.

1994: The Presbyterian Church offers a confession to Canada's First Nations people.

1998: The United Church's General Council Executive offers a second apology to the First Nations peoples of Canada for the abuse incurred at residential schools. The litigation list naming the Government of Canada and major Church denominations grows to 7,500.