AFN National Chief and Catholic Bishops meet to continue talks on Indian Residential Schools healing and reconciliation



    QUEBEC CITY, July 16 /CNW Telbec/ - Assembly of First Nations (AFN)
National Chief Phil Fontaine met here today with a group of Catholic bishops
to discuss ongoing efforts toward healing and reconciliation with First
Nations as a result of the Indian Residential Schools (IRS) experience.
    The meeting is the latest in a series initiated by National Chief
Fontaine in May 2004 when he first met with a group of women religious leaders
in Winnipeg to foster dialogue on healing and reconciliation with Catholic
religious entities that were involved with the IRS.
    Over the last two years, the National Chief has also met with a group of
Catholic Bishops from Northern Canada, and Catholic women and men religious in
Montreal and Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec; Winnipeg, Manitoba; and Edmonton,
Alberta.
    In addition to the National Chief, participants in today's meeting
included:

    
    - Most Reverend Pierre-André Fournier, Auxiliary Bishop of Quebec
    - Most Reverend Gérard Pettipas, Archbishop of Grouard-McLennan
    - Most Reverend Eugene Tremblay, Archbishop of Amos
    - Most Reverend Martin Veillette, Archbishop of Trois-Rivières
    

    "I recognize that thousands of Catholic men and women religious worked
during the Indian Residential Schools era in what they sincerely believed to
be in the best interest of Indian Residential School students," National Chief
Fontaine said. "However, it is important for these religious entities to both
openly acknowledge their role in Indian Residential Schools and to hear
directly from First Nations regarding their experiences.
    We view the Catholic entities as allies in the challenging healing
process that Indian Residential School survivors and their families are going
through. We want to continue working together at the local community level
with individual Catholic religious members. The close cooperation of all
stakeholders is crucial to the success of the work of the Indian Residential
Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission."
    Bishop Fournier indicated efforts by Catholic organizations to repair and
restore their relationship with First Nations started decades before a formal
agreement was reached in 2006 between 50 Catholic entities involved with the
IRS system and the federal government, and that a large number of initiatives
by Catholics have taken place throughout Canadian dioceses.
    "We are grateful for the support and cooperation of First Nations
leaders, such as AFN National Chief Fontaine," he said. "We have always seen
this healing and reconciliation process as an essential part of our
relationship with Catholic and non-Catholic Aboriginal communities, and expect
this relationship to evolve in Quebec and the rest of Canada as we, together,
move beyond the legacy of the flawed IRS system."

    The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing
First Nations citizens in Canada.




For further information:

For further information: Joan McEwen, AFN Communications Director,
Assembly of First Nations, (613) 241-6789 ext. 242, cell (613) 324-3329,
jmcewen@afn.ca; Susan C. Smith, Bluesky Strategy Group Inc. for the Assembly
of First Nations, cell (613) 371-0624, susan@blueskystrategygroup.com;
Isabelle Théberge, Director of Communications, Diocèse de Québec, (418)
688-1211 Ext. 208, isabelle.theberge@diocesequebec.qc.ca


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