In the Midland area we are blessed to work and live with many of our indigenous brothers and sisters. When news in June of the residential school discoveries reached our ears we were grieved not just for those children, or those in distant places affected by the residential schools, but also for real people that we know and love here at home. It is for this reason that we wholeheartedly stand with those who have suffered harm through the residential school program and repent of our part in it.
While I learned of the existence of residential schools at some point during my grade school years it was not until I attended my first General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Canada in the early 2000s that I began to understand the impact that this terrible program has had on generations of an entire segment of our population. We listened to guest speakers who were survivors of the residential schools. The stories they told were horrific. I was further shocked to find that the denomination which I had recently pledged to serve had participated in running multiple residential schools.
“The Presbyterian Church in Canada operated 11 residential schools for Indigenous children, with the first opening in the mid-1880s. The names of those schools are: Ahousaht Residential School in British Columbia, Alberni Residential School in British Columbia, Birtle Residential School in Manitoba, Cecilia Jeffrey Residential School in Kenora, Ontario, Crowstand Residential School in Saskatchewan, File Hills Residential School in Saskatchewan, Muscowpetung (later known as “Lakesend”) Residential School in Saskatchewan, Portage la Prairie Residential School in Manitoba, Regina Industrial School in Saskatchewan, Round Lake Residential School in Saskatchewan, and Stoney Plain Residential School in Alberta. In 1925, all but two of the schools that were still open were transferred to the United Church of Canada which was established as a result of the Church Union Movement. ” A Statement Regarding Residential Schools – Presbyterian.ca
I was relieved at that General Assembly to find out that the PCC repented of this grievous sin in 1994 by way of a formal apology. However, we recognized then, and even more so now, that an apology does not undo what has been done. That is why we continue to listen to stories from those who have survived residential schools, and those impacted by those survivors. That is why we have much work to do.
I’d like to invite you to read this article written by the Moderators of the 2019 and 2021 General Assemblies. It outlines actions that the denomination needs to take, as well as providing links to our formal apology and other resources. I’d also like to draw your attention to the Reconciliation and residential School Fund that has been set up here.
Many of the members and adherents of our congregation have expressed dismay and great sorrow over what has transpired and they want to do what they can to make it right. At a local level the Session of Knox Midland is reaching out to community leaders and organizations to find out how we can stand in solidarity with them. We are exploring ways that we can become more aware of our shameful past, while moving towards truth and reconciliation in the future, but we do not want to assume that we know how best to support them in the present. Please expect more information in the coming weeks as to how we can better support our friends, coworkers, and family who have been impacted by the residential school system.
With a heavy heart,
Rev. Alton J. Ruff