"We acknowledge the grave abuses that were committed."
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) has issued an apology for the first time to the Indigenous communities who suffered under the residential school system.
"Along with those Catholic entities which were directly involved in the operation of the schools and which have already offered their own heartfelt apologies, we, the Catholic Bishops of Canada, express our profound remorse and apologize unequivocally," said a statement from CCCB on Friday, September 24.
The apology comes just days ahead of a new federal statutory holiday on September 30 called the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The holiday was established to "commemorate the legacy of residential schools," Justin Trudeau previously said.
The discovery of unmarked mass graves at former residential schools earlier this year made headlines across the country and the world, with NDP leader Jagmeet Singh calling the situation "genocide." Perry Bellegarde, the former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said that the news was "absolutely tragic, but not surprising."
"We acknowledge the grave abuses that were committed by some members of our Catholic community; physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, cultural, and sexual," the statement from CCCB said. "We also sorrowfully acknowledge the historical and ongoing trauma and the legacy of suffering and challenges faced by Indigenous Peoples that continue to this day."
"We commit ourselves to continue accompanying you, the First Nations, Métis and Inuit Peoples of this land. Standing in respect of your resiliency, strength and wisdom, we look forward to listening to and learning from you as we walk in solidarity."