June 11 Apology Must Be a Defining Moment in Canadian History



    TORONTO, June 2 /CNW/ - In a letter sent to Stephen Harper, The United
Church of Canada has urged the Prime Minister to ensure that the June 11
apology to residential school survivors and their families is an occasion that
will be experienced as a defining moment in the healing of our nation.
    The church's letter also echoes the concerns raised by the National Chief
of the Assembly of First Nations, Phil Fontaine, in an open letter on
April 22. In that letter Chief Fontaine lamented the absence of direct
consultation with Aboriginal leaders and survivors about the content of the
national apology.
    The United Church says it agrees that consultation with those who have
been directly affected by the legacy of residential schools is essential.
    "Such consultation is critical in order that survivors experience the
apology as full, genuine, and substantial," writes the Moderator, the Right
Rev. David Giuliano.
    The church's letter urges the Prime Minister "to meet with Aboriginal
leaders and survivor representatives as soon as possible so that the apology
might achieve the hopes that so many of us have for it."
    The Rev. James Scott is the United Church's General Council Officer for
Residential Schools. He says the church sees the apology as having immense
importance in the national healing process and in fulfilling the hopes and
intentions of the overall Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.
    "In offering our own apologies, the United Church has come to understand
both the real and symbolic importance of apology in the healing journey of
those who were harmed by the schools," explains Scott. "And apologizing has
also been the first step in our church's own journey of recovery and healing
from the attitudes that led to the schools in the first place."
    Scott adds that the apology is also a vital element in meeting the
objectives of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for broad public
awareness and ownership of the residential school legacy.
    "The offering of this apology should be an event of singular significance
in the unfolding of our national story," says Scott. "It is therefore
absolutely critical that the presentation of the apology be consistent with
the import of its message and the need to generate an extraordinary level of
public attention."
    The Moderator concludes his letter to the Prime Minister with the
following words of encouragement and support:
    "We believe in the power of reconciliation. We believe in the possibility
of healing, of new beginnings, even out of the devastation of such a tragic
policy as the Indian residential school system. The national apology offers
the opportunity to begin the process of healing, forgiveness, and
reconciliation. The legacy of a national apology to survivors and their
families can be the foundation on which our nation builds a new and hopeful
future.
    "We look to your leadership in offering a full, honest, and sincere
national apology. Such an apology would be a profoundly important platform on
which to renew a relationship of respect, equality, and justice between
Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples across this great land. We offer you our
prayerful support in this task."





For further information:

For further information: Mary-Frances Denis, Communications Officer, The
United Church of Canada, (416) 231-7680 ext. 2016 (office), 1-800-268-3781
ext. 2016 (toll-free), (416) 885-7478 (cell), (416) 766-0057 (home),
mdenis@united-church.ca

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