'I grew up to forgive': Sask. residential school survivor accepts Archbishop of Canterbury's apology

Residential school survivors in Saskatchewan had a chance to share their stories with the leader of the Anglican Church over the weekend.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby visited a school on James Smith Cree Nation to hear accounts from children, grandchildren and survivors of residential schools on Saturday.

While there, he apologized to survivors on behalf of himself and the Anglican Church.

“I am sorry. I am more sorry than I can say. I am ashamed. I am horrified,” said the Archbishop.

For survivors like Dennis Sanderson who spent 11 years in residential schools, the visit was an opportunity to heal old wounds.

“I want to forget about what happened to me. I want to move on with my life,” he said. “Because I’ve got grandchildren, I’ve got people here who need me, I’ve got grandchildren who need my help, to share my story so that they can grow in their own way. And that is my greatest gift now.”

Sanderson says the archbishop’s apology will help him leave the anger behind.

“For the Anglican church to say that I’m sorry, for the Catholic Church to say I’m sorry, I accept that. Because I grew up to forgive, in the later years of my life. To forgive what has been given to me, to forgive what has been taken away from me,” said Sanderson.

Welby attended an Indigenous gathering on Sunday at the Prince Albert Exhibition main hall where he heard from more survivors.

He says he felt the weight of the stories being told, but hopes he is able to lift some of that weight off survivors.

"The grace shown by the survivors is so extraordinary. The graciousness, one of them came up to me this morning and said 'I slept well last night, I felt the lifting of a burden.' It’s only the first step in a very, very long journey, but it was a great blessing to me. It was a very gracious step to say that to me, and I felt helped by that."

Former FSIN chief and senator Sol Sanderson says the apology only goes so far and that further action to reverse the effects of colonization is needed.

"The pardons that are going to be issued by him, and the pardon that was issued by the pope of the Catholic Church, they’re ok. But there are no deliverables in those pardons," said Sanderson, who called for specific action on the Papal Bull of 1493, which said Indigenous peoples were not human or Christian and therefore didn’t have rights.

“I’m saying that the Pope has to terminate the Papal Bull. The U.N., the world churches have rejected it, but if they don’t terminate that Papal Bull, they’ve rejected nothing.”

The Archbishop’s visit coincides with the 50th session of the provincial Synod, gathering delegates from the three Prairie Provinces, Northwest Territories and Nunavut. The theme: truth and reconciliation.