An Initial Response to Kamloops

Separating children from their families — especially by force, intimidation or threat of withholding assistance in difficult times; creating the conditions where these children died separated from their families; and then failing to return them to their families or inform their families, is simply evil.

I have felt the burden of this evil this past week in particular, because of my connection to people who suffered this evil, who perpetrated it or failed to prevent it, or who are inadvertently associated with it. As a father, looking at my children, the pain caused by this evil has been made all the more real. I am deeply saddened, and also feel deeply betrayed by those of my own country, and especially my own church, who perpetrated these evils.

When it failed in this regard, the Catholic Church, my church, failed not just by the standards of today, but by its own standards that were well articulated at the time. It failed to see, uphold and protect the dignity of Indigenous people, to recognize the spiritual and cultural gifts they had received from the Creator. It failed to act according to the principle of solidarity with the most vulnerable. And who were more vulnerable in this context than Indigenous children? It failed to act according to the principle of subsidiarity, to respect and foster self-determination of Indigenous communities. Most importantly, my church violated the sanctity of the family, which is the building block of any healthy society. When we Christians failed in this way, it was often because we sought to convert others rather than be fully converted ourselves to the Gospel we had received, or because we mistook that gift as a badge of superiority.

If I remain in the Church, in spite of all this, it is because I see it first and foremost as a spiritual communion with Christ. The church, on this side of eternity and as a human institution, is not a club for saints, but a refuge for sinners deeply in need of healing.

If I remain hopeful it is because most of my teachers and models of Christianity -- most of whom were Indigenous in my early years -- have been examples of perseverance in the path of healing, wholeness and holiness (which are different ways of saying the same thing).

If I remain active and engaged in the Church, it is because I want to help rid the Church and the wider society of anything and everything that might allow such evils to happen again. More importantly, and perhaps ironically for some, my faith is the primary source of any strength with which I engage in the fight.

This fight begins with myself, because like every other human being, I can be inhuman in ways that dogs cannot be "indog" or fish "infish.” Yet I have hope in a Creator whose goodness and power is greater than my capacity to misuse the gift of freedom, without which there can be no love.

Personally, the most powerful examples of love and freedom that I have seen, have been embodied by people who have suffered what was done to them in residential schools (and the society that produced these schools), and yet have found the capacity to forgive … who have retained the capacity to see goodness even when surrounded by evil, to see light even in the midst of darkness.

Such forgiveness cannot be demanded, but must be deeply honoured when it is received.


(These comments were shared in a Facebook post on June 5, and I have since re-shared them here. I wanted to respond with directness that nonetheless left room for nuance - knowing full well this was not the time or place to insist on nuance. I wanted to respond in a way that would stand true regardless of what further evidence, corroborative or corrective - might later come to light.)

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