Canadians hear painful stories of abuse in church-run schools

Debbie Poirier of the United Church of Canada Photo Credit:WCRC/Greenaway

Debbie Poirier of the United Church of Canada
Photo Credit:WCRC/Greenaway

Canadian Christians are hearing painful stories about abuse of aboriginal children in residential schools run by churches. At a public hearing of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) underway in the city of Montreal this week, former students are telling three aboriginal commissioners about physical, psychological and sexual abuse from teachers and other staff, including clergy and lay people.

“For many of our members, this process has opened doors to the truth of one part of our history,” says Stephen Kendall of the Presbyterian Church of Canada. “It is painful to learn that the church we know and love has caused so much pain.”

Kendall, who is a member of the Executive Committee of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC), is in Montreal along with many other Canadian church representatives to hear testimony by residential school survivors and their children about the long-term impact of the abuse on aboriginal families and communities.

There are approximately 80,000 living survivors of the schools. Of those, nearly 50 per cent have laid criminal charges alleging abuse during their school years.

The hearing that runs from 24-27 April is the fifth in a series convened following the establishment of the TRC in 2009 as part of a compensation package agreed in response to a series of legal challenges brought against the Canadian government and four national churches by former students. The hearings are scheduled to conclude in 2014.

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