'The church needs to listen to Indigenous people': Archdiocese of Regina looks at ways to reconcile

The Archdiocese of Regina is in active conversations with Indigenous leaders and communities on steps it can take to reconcile and mend broken relationships.

On Wednesday, the diocese released an apology statement recognizing its role in operating four residential schools in the area and its moral obligation to assist in healing where wanted. 

The one thing Regina Archbishop Donald Bolen has heard most is the desire for the church to take responsibility for its actions.

“Responsibility in the Archdiocese means looking to the four nations where there was a residential school and where there are cemeteries and to enter conversations there,” Bolen said.

The diocese has committed to help bring the same ground penetrating radar research used in Kamloops to the local sites and to assist in the search of more unmarked graves, if that is wanted.

“But we haven’t taken any steps without consulting with and walking with our Indigenous friends and guides who have been helping us to move forward together,” Bolen added.

One of the Indigenous leaders the Archdiocese is consulting in its reconciliation work is Susan Beaudin. She is an education consultant and residential school survivor.

“I think what the Catholic Church is going to learn from us, and if we give them a chance to learn from us, (that) is how we put our people who have died away and help them pass on to the other side,” Beaudin said.

Indigenous people hold prayers and ceremonies to honour those who have died, Beaudin said it would be nice to have representatives from the church watch or partake in one of the ceremonies that will happen when more unmarked graves are discovered.

“In some communities they won’t want Bishop Don there and they won’t invite him and that’s ok because that is where we are at this point,” she said. “There will be some people who will have circles to discuss this among the people.”

Bolen said he would attend the ceremonies if he is invited.

“If I am invited to such a ceremony, I would go and consider it a great privilege. But if the decision is to not have Catholic representatives there or not to have the Bishop there, that is completely understandable, too,” Bolen said.

Both parties agree that there needs to be more education – both in the church and general public – on Canada’s colonial history and lasting impacts seen today.

Bolen said the Archdiocese has been looking at the Truth and Reconciliation reports and coming up with ways to implement some recommendations.

“What can we do in the parishes, what can we do in the schools, what can we do in terms of formation of people about Indigenous history and how can we work together on justice issues. Really taking the lead from Indigenous people, but standing in solidarity, walking with,” Bolen said.

“It’s time for the Catholic Church to listen to Indigenous people and for Indigenous people to at least help guide any process or anything we want to do,” Beaudin said.