PCC 2023 Moderator of the General Assembly, the Rev. Mary Fontaine in conversation with past moderator, the Rev. Amanda Currie.

The Rev. Amanda Currie with the Rev. Mary Fontaine

On August 8, PCC Moderator the Rev Mary Fontaine, and former moderator the Rev. Amanda Currie, visited a gathering of Indigenous youth and elders at Camp McKay in Saskatchewan on the former site of the Round Lake Residential School to offer an apology on behalf of The Presbyterian Church in Canada. The school was operated by the PCC from 1888-1925, and then by the United Church of Canada until it closed in 1950. The gathering was organized by the Ochapowace and Chacachas First Nations, and received funding support from The Presbyterian Church in Canada through our “Honouring the Children” Fund, as well as the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Regina and The United Church of Canada.

Mary apologized on behalf of The Presbyterian Church in Canada for “the deplorable acts of neglect and abuse” that occurred at the Round Lake Residential School, saying, “We are deeply sorry and we humbly repent. We offer our sincere apology to you, the Survivors who are here today, and to the First Nations communities who were harmed by the legacy of the Round Lake School and the whole system of Indian Residential Schools.”  She thanked organizers for the invitation to The Presbyterian Church in Canada to participate in such an important event, saying, “We are grateful for the chance to be with you and to offer this apology. We are also thankful for the chance to support this event and the memorial here at Camp McKay through our “Honouring the Children” Fund.”

Leaders from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese and the United Church of Canada also offered their apologies.

Residential school Survivors and young people courageously share their stories

After the event, Amanda noted: “A couple of things stand out as particularly powerful from the day. I have participated in the KAIROS Blanket Exercise many times, but this time was different in that I was the only non-Indigenous person standing on those blankets representing Turtle Island. My heart broke again and again as we enacted the story of colonization, being fully aware of how this history had impacted the families and communities of those around me.”

“We also had an opportunity to listen to two survivors share about their experiences at residential school and how their lives were impacted – one who attended Round Lake Residential School and one who attend a Catholic-operated school. I have heard many similar stories before, but as always, it was a privilege to listen and acknowledge their experience.”

“Then we heard from two courageous young men who told us how the residential schools had impacted them. Both were born after the last school closed in 1996, but the intergenerational trauma was undeniable and horrific. It was touching to watch them support each other when emotions rose up in them, and their determination and hope for a better future was inspiring.”

“Church representatives were invited to attend, to listen, and to make apologies to the survivors who were present. I was so pleased that our Moderator was able to attend. She not only voiced the confession and apology of the PCC, but also shared from her life experience as a Cree Presbyterian, the witness of her parents who showed her how Christian faith and Indigenous spiritual practices could be lived out together in harmony, and a little about the Hummingbird Ministry in Vancouver. Thank you, Mary, for sharing such wisdom from your heart and life.”

Ochapowace Chief Shelley Bear (right) and Emily Henry helped organize the event.