ABMK Provincial Council is hosting a virtual retreat open to everyone on Monday, December 13th, 7-9 pm. See details

National Council is hosting a virtual retreat for CWL members on December 12. See our Action page for these and other resources.

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Residential school survivors, Indigenous elders , knowledge keepers and youth to meet with Pope Francis

The Catholic Bishops of Canada are pleased to announce that 25-30 First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Elders, knowledge keepers, residential school survivors, and youth will meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican from December 17-20, 2021, accompanied by a small group of Canadian Bishops.

The delegation has been planned through ongoing dialogue with the Assembly of First Nations, the Métis National Council, the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, and other Indigenous leaders. While specific travel plans and itineraries are being coordinated with the delegates directly, representatives from the Vatican have confirmed that the Holy Father will participate in private meetings with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis delegates respectively to hear their personal stories of the lasting legacy of residential schools. Delegates will also have the opportunity to speak with the Holy Father about their hopes and expectations for his eventual pilgrimage to Canada.

Pope Francis' visit to Canada

The Catholic Bishops of Canada are grateful that Pope Francis has accepted their invitation to visit Canada on a pilgrimage of healing and reconciliation. The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has invited the Holy Father to make an apostolic journey to Canada, also in the context of the long-standing pastoral process of reconciliation with indigenous peoples. His Holiness has indicated his willingness to visit the country on a date to be settled in due course. The Holy Father’s full statement on the matter can be found here.

In anticipation of this visit, the planned delegation of Indigenous survivors, Elders, knowledge keepers and youth will travel to the Holy See, where they will have the opportunity to speak to Pope Francis about the timing, focus, and themes in preparation for his future pilgrimage to Canada.

“The Bishops of Canada have been engaged in meaningful discussions with Indigenous Peoples, especially those affected by Residential Schools who have shared stories about the suffering and challenges that they continue to experience,” said CCCB President, the Most Rev. Raymond Poisson. “We pray that Pope Francis’ visit to Canada will be a significant milestone in the journey toward reconciliation and healing.”

The Canadian Bishops recently pledged to work with the Holy See and Indigenous partners on the possibility of a pastoral visit to Canada by the Pope. Following this pledge and informed by three years of ongoing dialogue between the Canadian Bishops, the Holy See, and Indigenous Peoples, the President and former-President of the CCCB met in Rome with the Secretary of State of the Holy See to discuss next steps on the reconciliation journey earlier this month and in preparation for the delegation.

This delegation to the Holy See will take place from December 17-20, 2021, and is being planned in close collaboration with National Indigenous Organizations and other partners.

“We will invite the delegation of Indigenous survivors, Elders, knowledge keepers, and youth who will meet with Pope Francis to open their hearts to the Holy Father and share both their suffering as well as their hopes and desires for his eventual visit to Canada,” added Bishop Poisson.

Additional details about Pope Francis’ pilgrimage to Canada, as well as the Rome delegation will be announced by the CCCB as details are confirmed.

Canadian Bishops announce $30 million National Financial Pledge

The Bishops of Canada, as a tangible expression of their commitment to walk with the Indigenous Peoples of this land along the pathway of hope, are making a nation-wide collective financial commitment to support healing and reconciliation initiatives for residential school survivors, their families, and their communities. 

With a target of $30 million over up to 5 years, this will include initiatives in every region of the country. The commitment will be achieved at the local level, with parishes across Canada being encourage to participate and amplify the effort. 

  • Read News Release (Sep. 27) 
  • See the Statement of apology by the Bishops of Canada below

Statement of Apology by the Catholic Bishops of Canada to the Indigenous peoples.

 The Catholic Bishops of Canada, gathered in Plenary this week, took the opportunity to affirm and acknowledge to the Indigenous Peoples the suffering experienced in Canada’s Indian Residential Schools. Many Catholic religious communities and dioceses participated in this system, which led to the suppression of Indigenous languages, culture and spirituality, failing to respect the rich history, traditions and wisdom of Indigenous Peoples. They acknowledged the grave abuses that were committed by some members of our Catholic community; physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, cultural, and sexual. They also sorrowfully acknowledged the historical and ongoing trauma and the legacy of suffering and challenges faced by Indigenous Peoples that continue to this day.  Along with those Catholic entities which were directly involved in the operation of the schools and which have already offered their own heartfelt apologies, the Catholic Bishops of Canada expressed their profound remorse and apologized unequivocally.

Together with the many pastoral initiatives already underway in dioceses across the country, the Bishops pledged to undertake fundraising in each region of the country to support initiatives discerned locally with Indigenous partners. Furthermore, they invited the Indigenous Peoples to journey with us into a new era of reconciliation, helping us to prioritize initiatives of healing, to listen to the experience of Indigenous Peoples, especially to the survivors of Indian Residential Schools, and to educate our clergy, consecrated men and women, and lay faithful, on Indigenous cultures and spirituality. They further committed to continue the work of providing documentation or records that will assist in the memorialization of those buried in unmarked graves.

A delegation of Indigenous survivors, Elders/knowledge keepers, and youth will meet with the Holy Father in December 2021. Pope Francis will encounter and listen to the Indigenous Peoples, so as to discern how he can support our common desire to renew relationships and walk together along the path of hope in the coming years. The Bishops of Canada have pledged to work with the Holy See and our Indigenous partners on the possibility of a pastoral visit by the Pope to Canada as part of this healing journey. We are committed to continue the journey with the First Nations, Métis and Inuit Peoples of this land. 

Digging for the truth about Canada's Residential School graves 

The resources below are now shared on the Diocesan website (frontpage):

In this special three-part series, C2C Journal writer Hymie Rubenstein sorts through the heated claims and allegations and sets forth what is actually known about the unmarked graves at Canada’s former Indian Residential Schools.

  • When disturbing evidence is unearthed that points to malfeasance by individuals, organizations or entire countries, it is understandable that feelings would run high among the aggrieved parties. But are unrestrained emotionalism, exaggeration and wild accusation the proper responses for politicians, experts, commentators and the population at large? How does this help a nation get at the truth, pursue justice or settle accounts – let alone move the parties along the path of forgiveness and reconciliation? Read Part One
  • The reported discovery of unmarked graves at former Indian Residential Schools confirmed what many Canadians thought they already knew about this now-discredited system. But how much of this foundational knowledge is actually true? Did “all” Indigenous children attend residential schools? Were they forced to go? Was this done over the objections of their parents and chiefs? How did the buried students die? And what, in turn, was the system’s real purpose? In Part Two of this special three-part series, Hymie Rubenstein digs deep into the historical record in the search for answers to these difficult questions. Read Part Two

Webinar series on Residential Schools

The Archdiocese of Edmonton hosted a webinar series on the history of residential schools, the TRC, and the long road towards healing and Reconciliation. The video is presented by Archbishop Richard Smith of the Edmonton Archdiocese, as well as Metis Deacon John Brown, Archbishop of Toronto Cardinal Thomas Collins, as well as Neil McCarthy, Director of Communications for the Toronto Archdiocese.

Siksika Nation Chief and Council meet with Bishop McGrattan

Press release: Siksika Nation Chief and Council meet with Bishop McGrattan
. "Siksika Nation Chief and Council invited Bishop William McGrattan and Delegation from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary to meet on August 9, 2021 at Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park to establish ways to rectify the relationship between Siksika Nation and the Catholic Church who have a long-standing history together that includes Indian Residential Schools (IRS) as well as a devoted following comprised of Siksika Nation members." Read full Siksika Nation press release

Questions and Answers Statements
Learn about Residential Schools

Truth and Reconciliation

A brief guide about Treaty & Alberta Treaty Map (Alberta Teachers Association)

Let us join in prayer: 

For the children who died in the former Kamloops Indian Residential School and for all those impacted by this tragedy, that there may be healing founded on truth and that the Spirit will inspire our ongoing commitment to reconciliation. Amen.

There were 25 residential schools in the Province of Alberta.  See: Residential Schools in Canada Map. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary did not run any residential schools, although four were located within the boundaries of the Diocese:

Crisis line for Indian Residential School survivors and family: 1-866-925-4419

Source: Diocese of Calgary

The CCCB website page on residential schools and TRC notes that approximately 16 out of 70 Catholic dioceses in Canada were associated with the former Indian Residential Schools, in addition to about three dozen Catholic religious communities. 

Pope Benedict XVI invited members of a Canadian delegation, composed of representatives of Indigenous communities and of Catholic dioceses and religious communities in Canada, for a private meeting following his morning General Audience on April 29, 2009, to discuss their experiences with the Indian Residential Schools. During the meeting the Pope listened to the stories of the representatives and expressed his regret for the suffering that many Indigenous people had undergone within Indian Residential Schools. Source.

Read about

Many have asked what they can do.

Delegation to the Holy See

The Catholic Bishops in Canada have genuinely heard the sincere invitation to engage wholeheartedly with the past and are deeply committed to take truly meaningful active steps together with Indigenous Peoples in view of a future filled with greater respect and cooperation. The recent discovery of children’s remains in a burial site at a former residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia reminds us of a tragic legacy still felt today. With the strong encouragement of Pope Francis, the Bishops of Canada have pledged true and deep commitment to renewing and strengthening relationships with Indigenous Peoples across the land.

In recent years, regional and diocesan listening circles have taken place across the country in order to hear the stories from local Indigenous communities and their hopes for the future. Mutual listening is the beginning of our common efforts to bring about shared and long-lasting reconciliation, authentic healing and bridge building.

In conversation with Indigenous people and communities, both at the local and national levels, and bilaterally with the First Nations, Métis and Inuit national organizations, the Bishops, sponsors of this project, have been preparing, for over two years now, a delegation of Indigenous people to meet with the Holy Father to foster meaningful encounters of dialogue and healing. This pastoral visit will include the participation of a diverse group of Elders / Knowledge Keepers, residential school survivors and youth from across the country. The event will likewise provide Pope Francis with a unique opportunity to hear directly from Indigenous Peoples, express his heartfelt closeness, address the impact of colonization and the implication of the Church in the residential schools, so as to respond to the suffering of Indigenous Peoples and the ongoing effects of intergenerational trauma.

The global pandemic caused by COVID-19 has stalled this project; however, the Bishops remain committed to moving forward with the delegation prior to the end of 2021, in compliance with international travel guidelines.

The delegation to the Holy See represents an important step on the journey of reconciliation and shared healing for Indigenous Peoples and the Church in Canada. Pope Francis, in his 6 June 2021 Angelus message, spoke about the shocking discovery of children’s remains at the former Kamloops residential school and, while conveying sorrow and solidarity, emphasized the importance of “walking side by side in dialogue and in mutual respect in the recognition of the rights and cultural values of all the sons and daughters of Canada”. It is our hope that these forthcoming encounters – and the important collaboration and partnership that has supported the planning – will lead to a shared future of peace and harmony between Indigenous Peoples and the Catholic Church in Canada.

Download Statement in PDF
Source: Diocese of Calgary

Date of delegation to the Holy See

Following the 10 June 2021 announcement regarding the delegation of Indigenous people to meet with the Holy Father to foster meaningful encounters of dialogue and healing, the Catholic Bishops of Canada are pleased to announce that the delegation is scheduled to take place from 17‑20 December 2021 in compliance with global travel restrictions.

Pope Francis is deeply committed to hearing directly from Indigenous Peoples, expressing his heartfelt closeness, addressing the impact of colonization and the role of the Church in the residential school system, in the hopes of responding to the suffering of Indigenous Peoples and the ongoing effects of intergenerational trauma. The Bishops of Canada are deeply appreciative of the Holy Father’s spirit of openness in generously extending an invitation for personal encounters with each of the three distinct groups of delegates – First Nations, Métis and Inuit – as well as a final audience with all delegates together on 20 December 2021.

This pastoral visit will include the participation of a diverse group of Elders/Knowledge Keepers, residential school survivors and youth from across the country, accompanied by a small group of Bishops and Indigenous leaders. Planning for the delegation is ongoing and further details will be announced when they are available.

The Bishops of Canada reaffirm their sincere hope that these forthcoming encounters will lead to a shared future of peace and harmony between Indigenous Peoples and the Catholic Church in Canada. 

29 June 2021
Download statement in PDF

Father Cristino Bouvette says "It filled me with some dread to even ask her this question, but on a visit to the farm once, I delicately broached the topic with her as we peeled potatoes: “Kokum, based on your experience of residential school..." Read more at https://www.convivium.ca/articles/reality-in-truth-and-reconciliation

Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, by Canada, Plaintiffs, Assembly of First Nations, Inuit Representatives, Anglican Church, Presbyterian Church, United Church of Canada, and Roman Catholic Entities (May 8, 2006) with Schedule N mandating the Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Phil Fontaine’s Statement to the Pope on Residential Schools Apology (April 29, 2009)

CBC explains "Why retrieving former residential school records has proved so difficult"

Fr. Cristino Bouvette's shares the story on Global News of his kokum (grandmother) who survived a residential school and how he is using her legacy to work on reconciliation between the Catholic Church and Canada’s Indigenous community. Watch on Global News 

Where are the children buried? (A report from Dr. Scott Hamilton, available also on National Centre forTruth and Reconciliation

Some resources have been added to the frontpage of the Calgary Diocese website:

Balancing the biased “Genocide” Story About Residential Schools



The Diocese of Calgary is committed to providing a monetary contribution to a forthcoming local/regional financial appeal. This expresses the commitment of the Diocese to the ongoing work of justice and healing in our country with the Indigenous Peoples and their communities. Download statement in PDF