Order’s ‘commitment to transparency’ to include Manitoba residential schools

WARNING: This story contains distressing details.

A Catholic religious order that ran residential schools across Canada — including in Manitoba — has committed to disclosing historical documents in its possession relating to the schools. 

While Father Ken Thorson of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate couldn’t say how many residential schools the order operated in Manitoba, those schools will form part of the “commitment to transparency” it issued on Thursday. 

“We’re looking at ways to ensure that the history the Indigenous community are seeking — to access the truth of their history — and hopefully that will lead to opportunities for healing and reconciliation,” Thorson told CBC Manitoba. 

“This is who we are as a religious order.” 

The order has been under pressure to release its records due to the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves at schools it operated in Saskatchewan and British Columbia. 

“We remain deeply sorry for our involvement in residential schools and the harms they brought to Indigenous peoples and communities,” the order said in a Thursday statement. 

While some of the documents would have already been provided due to the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement and Truth and Reconciliation Commission processes, Thorson said there will be some documents disclosed not made available before. 

The order pledged to not block access to the documents “as is possible within the law,” to seek guidance from First Nations peoples and levels of government, and work with church leaders “to support full truth in these matters.” 

Thorson said they will have a meeting next week at the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation in Winnipeg, where they will discuss the issue further.

Support is available for anyone affected by the lingering effects of residential school and those who are triggered by the latest reports.

A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for residential school survivors and others affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.

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