Update on Projects and Resources for Education Regarding Indigenous Peoples


Below you will find a number of resources for use by parishes: you may copy and use any of this material for parish websites, messages or bulletins.

The first resource is a link to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation where you can find the official government documents as well as additional resources. It is a good link to share with parishioners who wish to go to the official sources as a starting point.

I singled out one report in particular by Dr. Scott Hamilton since it is a fair account of the Residential School system’s practice of burying students (and staff): it too is a good resource to share.

Other resources repeat information from the FAQ document and give some history of the former Archdiocese of Ottawa’s contributions to the “Moving Forward” campaign.

As we develop more resources, we will share them.

Parishes are encouraged to develop their own programming as well: a number of parishes have engaged speakers or have started their own projects.

Primary Resource:

The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation contains many good resources to get a better understanding of the Residential Schools: https://nctr.ca/

Here is a link to the official reports from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission along with other documents: www.nctr.ca/records/reports/

Here is a link to a report specifically about the burial of Indigenous children (and others) in cemeteries on Residential School grounds:

“Where are the Children Buried?” by Dr. Scott Hamilton provides a detailed account of the history of the Residential School system and addresses the issue of the burial of indigenous children.


Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB)


Delegation to Rome

The CCCB announced “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.” This pastoral visit with the Holy Father is scheduled for December 17-20, 2021.

National Fundraising Efforts

Summary of Past National Fundraising:

In The Catholic entities that operated residential schools were part of the 2006 Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement (IRSSA).

The Holy See and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops were never involved in running the former schools. The “Roman Catholic Entities” named as parties in the IRSSA were legally deemed to have fulfilled the requirements of the settlement agreement by a judicial review. Following this review, the former Conservative government released the entities from further obligations – a decision which the present Liberal government did not appeal.

The 50 or so individual entities which signed the IRSSA paid:

i. $29 million in cash (less legal costs);
ii. more than the required $25 million of “in-kind” contributions; and
iii. an additional $3.7 million from a “best efforts” campaign.

Those same entities, together with other dioceses, institutes and national Catholic organizations, continue to be involved in efforts across the country to provide in-kind contributions, which go well beyond the scope of the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement.

A New Campaign:

The CCCB is discussing ways how the different dioceses can raise more funds to meet the moral obligation of the best efforts campaign. How the money will be raised and where it will be directed are under discussion for action later this year.

An attempt to go further than the legal obligations we met is a necessary step to support the work of reconciliation and support for the Indigenous peoples.

Dioceses are looking at what kind of fundraising campaign they can introduce: the Bishops and Eparchs in Saskatchewan, for example, are cooperating in a province wide campaign.

Lay Initiative:

A lay lead initiative has been launched: Catholics for Truth and Reconciliation. It has opportunities for donations, education and a chance to commit to further action so that the efforts are ongoing and not just a one-time event.


Archdiocese of Ottawa History of Fundraising:

How did the Archdiocese of Ottawa contribute to the “Moving Forward” campaign to raise additional funds beyond the initial financial contribution and the in-kind contribution?

The former Archdiocese of Ottawa (now we are the new Archdiocese of Ottawa-Cornwall) contributed $250,000 to the “Moving Forward” campaign. It was contributed in five installments of $50,000 a year. Part of this contribution went to establishing bursaries for Indigenous students in the name of Archbishop Forbes.

When the discussion was had about our contribution to the “Moving Forward” campaign, different ideas were presented including an archdiocesan, parish based collection. It was noted at the time that special collections usually raise about $30,000. This was not going to be enough to make a good effort towards supporting the campaign. Instead, the archdiocese committed to contributing $50,000 a year for five years out of archdiocesan funds for a total of $250,000. A portion of that amount came from the diocesan tax contributed from parishes. At the time, it was felt that this would be a better way of contributing a significant amount of money over time rather than a one-time collection.

Our contributions were shared locally with Indigenous Programs, e.g. at St. Paul’s University, Kateri Native Ministry, and nationally with “Return to Spirit” programs in Western Canada, as well as two initiatives for early school support for indigenous children, “Nativity Schools” in Regina (Mother Teresa School) and Winnipeg (Gonzaga School).

How did the Diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall contribute to the “Moving Forward” campaign”?

The former Diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall contributed to the campaign by sponsoring an initiative with St. Joseph Catholic High School to sponsor the building of a canoe. The purpose of the gift was to “provide aboriginal students an opportunity to experience the traditional craft of canoe building under the guidance and directions of a skilled aboriginal craftsman and teacher.” The diocese pledged to contribute for four years and the project resulted in one canoe being built and blessed; additional canoes were not built because of the difficulty in retaining an available skilled craftsman.

Not all the dioceses across Canada contributed at the time but the current situation makes another campaign more likely to generate wide interest.

Example of Archbishop Joseph (Guillaume Laurent) Forbes

A parish printed a message about one of our former Archbishops who is an example of the leaders of our Church who had a relationship based on respect and service with the Indigenous peoples in his diocese. Here is an edited excerpt:

In his first years as a priest, Archbishop Forbes served as curate, and then pastor, at Caughnawaga [Kahnawake] of the Mohawk Nation for 15 years. During this time, he learned, spoke and wrote fluently the native language. He produced many written resources for the Mohawk Nation in Kahnawake including letters, prayers, a catechism and many other things.

After becoming bishop, he was known to return to his first parishioners in order to celebrate Confirmations. He also ordained the first known First Nations man to the priesthood. In published reports after his death, it was reported that he lamented the fact that the native language was disappearing. May his story, and the story of many others who ministered to communities of the First Nations, not be lost.

Local Efforts by the Archdiocese of Ottawa-Cornwall

Archbishop Damphousse is working closely with Kateri Native Ministry based here in the Ottawa to develop opportunities for education for clergy and parishes led by Indigenous people. This is an ongoing effort and it will take some time to plan and do well. It may seem the archdiocese is not ‘doing much,’ but at this moment of time, a lot of work is in listening and consulting, working with the Indigenous peoples and relying on their wisdom, learning and expertise.

There are discussions underway for listening circles, the blanket exercise, teaching and a special Mass in the Fall at Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica.


A number of parishes have engaged speakers or have started their own projects such as planting trees on the parish church grounds or planning a garden as a memorial to students who perished in the Residential School System. Parishes are encouraged in their own local initiatives: some resources to help can be found below.


Local Resource:

Kateri Native Ministry:  www.katerinativeministry.ca

National Resource:  www.ourladyofguadalupecircle.ca

The Jesuit Forum :  www.jesuitforum.ca

The Jesuit forum has released a resource book intended for use as an educational resource. It was developed with Indigenous leaders and is a good resource for a parish study group: “Listening to Indigenous Voices: A Dialogue Guide to Justice and Right Relationships”.

It is available from Novalis both as a PDF and in hard copy for $19.95 (112 pages)