The devastating news of thousands of unmarked graves and the remains of children on or around the grounds of former residential schools, have triggered pain and loss that is not isolated to Indian Residential School Survivors, but is shared by all who lost family, friends or community members to Indian Residential Schools. So many Indigenous children never came home from the schools where they were forcibly taken, many facing abuse, neglect, non-consensual experimentation, increased illness, and death. The weight of the trauma that loss has wrecked in Indigenous communities in which The Presbyterian Church in Canada shared a large role, is still causing intense harm today.

The Presbyterian Church in Canada operated 11 residential schools and 5 Day schools. The church has confessed its role in running the schools and is seeking a path of reconciliation with Indigenous people (see https://presbyterian.ca/healing/ for the Confession, and a study guide to work through it.) But the trauma those schools caused for individuals, families and communities continues to significantly impact Indigenous people today. As a church, we are called both to repentance and to action.

In humility, the church calls for a time of prayer and lament to honour the lives of those children whose graves were found, and for all family, friends and communities who have lost loved ones through the Indian Residential School system—for whom this news opens fresh wounds. We also call for a time of reflection and recommitment to reconciliation. We encourage all church members to reflect on the harmful history in which we have been involved, and from that reflection seek renewed ways to work for healing and reconciliation with Indigenous people.

In response to the devastating confirmation of unmarked graves on the grounds of former residential schools, and in honour of the children who were lost and all people living with the consequences of that legacy, The Presbyterian Church in Canada has established the Honouring the Children: Reconciliation and Residential Schools Fund. This fund will support initiatives associated with searches for unmarked burial sites in communities where schools were operated by The Presbyterian Church in Canada. The PCC has committed $1 million from national funds, and invites congregations and individuals to make additional contributions to this important work.

To learn more about The Presbyterian Church in Canada’s actions towards reconciliation and addressing the harm done please visit: https://presbyterian.ca/justice/social-action/indigenous-justice/. To learn the names of the children who were known to have died at residential schools, the National Student Memorial https://nctr.ca/memorial/ is available on the website of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. For residential and day school survivors and intergenerational survivors, please know that support is available 24 hours a day at the National Residential School Crisis Line (1-866-925-4419).

The Revs. Courtney Crawford & Hugh Donnelly