Cree elder, residential school survivor, to speak at Richmond Catholic Church

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There’s no better way to learn about residential schools than to hear the stories firsthand, says local Catholic priest

A Cree elder is eager to find “forgiveness for all churches and for all” when he shares his journey as a residential school survivor at a Catholic church in Richmond on Thursday.

Elder Don Tourangeau wants people to understand what residential school survivors went through and that his voice and that of other First Nations members be finally heard on National Truth and Reconciliation Day.

In June, the federal government declared September 30 National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to commemorate the history of residential schools and to recognize the continuing trauma of Indigenous peoples.

“For me, it will be painful, but it will be understood because we finally manage to make the truth heard with our voices,” said Tourangeau.

“When I was a kid, from boarding school to foster homes, people didn’t believe me, but today they know the truth.

Tourangeau told Richmond News that there have always been misrepresentations and stereotypes about First Nations peoples.

“A lot of people think of us First Nations as alcoholics who do stupid things, but we had no one to give us an understanding of rights and how things are meant to be for us. There was no love and care when I was a child.

Worker Pastor St. Joseph, Fr. Pierre Ducharme called the event a “healthy and healing” opportunity and “a chance to learn and gain a better knowledge and understanding” about residential schools.

“While we are organizing the evening, it is a gift for us that the elder Don Tourangeau takes the courageous step towards us and his desire to share his story with us,” said Ducharme.

“At the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, there was a call to action for churches to learn more about residential schools. There is no better way than to hear these stories firsthand.

As a Catholic priest, Ducharme said there were many mixed feelings for himself and for those he spoke to regarding residential schools and the anonymous graves of residential school children.

“There is a lot of shame and anger that is mostly directed at ourselves and the way we have historically reacted to the past and not treated it in a healthy way,” he said.

“I think there is a desire among Christians to do what we can to heal this relationship. At the same time, I personally believe, that we also need to respect even more where indigenous peoples stand and what they may and may not want from us.

He added that he had heard from some members of indigenous communities that there was hope that “a long-term relationship could be forged”.

Elder Don Tourangeau will speak at St. Joseph the Worker Parish at 7:00 pm on September 30th.


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