SCO Asserts Ongoing Support for Residential School Survivors is Necessary
March 30, 2023
ANISHINAABE AND DAKOTA TERRITORY, MB — The Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO) is responding to news that the Vatican has renounced the Doctrine of Discovery and a judge has acquitted a former priest of assaulting a girl who attended the Fort Alexander Residential School.
“Today, I have mixed feelings. While I am pleased that the Vatican has finally and formally renounced the Doctrine of Discovery, my thoughts are with the Survivors and our ancestors who have experienced so much hurt due to the actions of the Catholic Church,” stated Grand Chief Jerry Daniels.
SCO and the Chiefs of the southern First Nations have repeatedly called on the Catholic Church to rescind the Doctrine, a colonial law that was used as legal and moral justification for the destruction of sovereign Nations in this Territory. The Doctrine of Discovery declared land “vacant” that was not populated by Christians.
This morning in the Manitoba Court of King’s Bench, Justice Candace Grammond acquitted a retired priest named Arthur Masse, who was accused of assaulting a 10-year-old First Nations girl who attended the Fort Alexander Residential School. In her decision, Grammond noted that she believes Victoria McIntosh was assaulted. However, she noted that after 50 years it was difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Masse assaulted the former student.
“I extend my prayers to Victoria McIntosh and commend you for your bravery in coming forward to seek justice,” said Grand Chief Daniels. “It is extremely difficult to confront the abuse one has experienced as a child. My prayers are with you and I admire you for your strength to share your story. SCO stands with all Survivors who continue to live with the pain caused by the experience of going through residential school. As Grand Chief, I will continue to advocate for supports to support the healing of our Survivors.”
“I am not surprised. I did not think this priest would be found guilty, partly because the church and the state work together. They are still in control of who is in power and what goes on. I’d like to tell the victim to continue to tell the truth. There are a lot of truths that still have not come out to the public, and I encourage all Survivors to continue to share their stories” shared Martina Fisher, a Survivor of residential school and a liaison with SCO’s Survivors’ Healing Program.
“The truth of the matter is that the church will never 100 percent admit there are these faults that they committed because if they do, that will mean they will have the responsibility to organize healing strategies with the First Nations,” continued Martina Fisher. “Anything that the church admits to should be part of building a bridge again with First Nations people. The truth needs to be told starting within the congregations of the churches. I attended a meeting with a Bishop and priests a few weeks ago where First Nations people were asked to raise millions of dollars to build a healing fund. I don’t agree that our people should be asked to be raising money for their own healing.”
Recently, SCO has launched several programs to respond to the needs of Survivors, including our Survivors’ Healing Program; the Harm Reduction and Land-Based Healing Program; and our Traditional Healers Program that was announced earlier this week.
SCO is also developing a MMIWG2S+ Unit in partnership with families and Survivors, including the Manitoba MMIWG2s+ Implementation Committee, and a Residential School Research Unit to support residential school Survivors and family members who are looking to access records and archives.
“In 2022, we called on Pope Francis to publicly denounce and renounce the Doctrine of Discovery,” shared Grand Chief Daniels. “When Pope Francis visited Canada last year, we also shared that his visit must come with authentic and genuine acts of remorse along with concrete commitments to compensation that can be used for First Nation led healing programs that will truly help our people. We repeat this assertion—it is essential that Survivors receive ongoing support from the Catholic Church, and this has not yet occurred.”
SCO extends gratitude to the Elders and Survivors who continue to share their truths and lead our movement of healing forward in a good way.
The Southern Chiefs’ Organization represents 34 First Nations and more than 83,000 citizens in what is now called southern Manitoba. SCO is an independent political organization that protects, preserves, promotes, and enhances First Nations peoples’ inherent rights, languages, customs, and traditions through the application and implementation of the spirit and intent of the Treaty-making process.
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