LISTEN: Local Pastor Apologizes for Catholic Church's Role in Residential Schools

Dried flowers rest inside a pair of child's running shoes at a memorial for the 215 children whose remains were found at the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School at Tk’emlups te Secwépemc First Nation in Kamloops, B.C., on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, June 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

A local pastor has issued an apology in response to the discovery of the remains of 215 children at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.

Reverend Patrick Bénéteau is the pastor for Windsor-Lake St. Clair Catholic Family of Parishes based at Tecumseh, Ont.'s Ste. Anne Church. Bénéteau issued the apology via an online mass on Wednesday. 

He tells The Dan MacDonald Show he issued the apology in the hopes the Catholic Church will follow suit.

"We can't speak for the whole church throughout the world. We can't speak for the diocese because we're not the Bishop or the Pope," he says. "I can speak for the people that I represent and on behalf of the local church community to offer that apology and say that I am sorry and we are sorry."

Bénéteau says an apology on the local level is a start.

"It's my hope that it can start growing and gain momentum and enact calls for change in the church's organizational structures so those apologies can come for all levels of the church," he added.

The parish placed 215 flowers at the steps of an altar to represent the children who never received a proper burial, but Bénéteau understands prayers and remembrance are not enough.

"We're responding shortly with a resource kit for parishioners with some concrete calls to actions to lobby both within the church and through government leaders to create better bridges with our First Nations peoples," he says.

The Catholic Church ran close to 70 per cent of residential schools in Canada that were responsible for separating indigenous children from their parents and their way of life.