Maritime residential school survivor reacts to Bishops' Council apology

Less than a week before Canada's first Truth and Reconciliation Day on Sept. 30, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement apologizing for some of the wrongs done in residential schools.

"I couldn't believe that they would even admit all those things and still, there's no justice," says Yvonne (Paul) Meunier, a survivor of the Shubenacadie residential school.

Now a grandmother, Meunier says she never thought she would see any admission like this in her lifetime.

She says for the survivors who have died, like her father, and the children who never came home, it's too late.

"So when I think about my ancestors that are on the other side and all the children that were just found - the 6,509 kids that were found - and I look at that apology and I say to myself My God, it's like a slap in the face," says Meunier.

The apology states: "Many Catholic religious communities participated in this system, which led to the suppression of Indigenous languages, culture and spirituality," and acknowledges the grave abuses that were committed, “physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, cultural and sexual.”

It wraps up by recognizing ongoing trauma and says, "we express our profound remorse, and apologize unequivocally."

"They were very clear on the damage that was done, psychologically, spiritually, emotionally, physically," Meunier says.

Meunier's son, Jeff Ward, is general manager of the Membertou Heritage Park. He says he had heard words of apology from local parish priests, and from the Archbishop of Halifax –Yarmouth prior to the statement.

Ward says while this latest apology is a step in the right direction, true accountability has to come from Rome.

"It needs to come from the top. It needs to come right from the Pope," Ward said, "and it has to come directly to our people and I believe that's the steps that have to happen."

The letter from the Council of Bishops raises the possibility of a visit from the Pope to Canada as part of the healing process. It also commits to continued work to memorialize those buried in unmarked graves.

"I mean, it had to be addressed. So was it sincere enough? It's a start”, Ward says.

"It will be interesting to see what's going to come out of this, other than just an apology," says Meunier, "at least they're admitting, that's some sort of consolation there."