“We knew it was going to happen”

The Most Rev. Mark MacDonald is the National Indigenous Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Canada. He recently spoke to a Carleton University class of MPNL graduate students soon after the shocking discovery of the remains of 215 children buried in unmarked graves on the grounds of the Kamloops Indian Residential School, BC, in May 2021. “We had expected this for quite a while,” he says. Archbishop MacDonald explains:

“The ‘final solution’ was that they become like us”

Archbishop MacDonald tells the story of Dr. Peter Hendersen Bryce, who was responsible for the health of Indigenous children in residential schools 115 years ago. Dr. Bryce conducted a survey of 1,537 children in the schools in 1907, and reported to the Canadian government that approximately 25% of them had died from tuberculosis due to poor ventilation and poor standards of care from school officials. Bryce issued such reports annually, and they were widely publicized. However, Duncan Campbell Scott, the Deputy Superintendent General of Indian Affairs, later told Dr. Bryce that the Canadian government had no intention of acting on the reports. Archbishop MacDonald says that Scott’s response was: “We’re sorry for this, but in light of the final solution, we have to tolerate this sad thing.” Archbishop MacDonald continues:

“If this is your worldview, you’re in trouble”

The Archbishop calls upon Western society and Christianity – including his own church – to place less emphasis on individual sin and more emphasis on corporate and systemic sin, a view in keeping with Indigenous understandings. Perhaps then, churches, including his, would become more accountable for what they did or could do collectively or as institutions. For example, few Christians acknowledge that the 215 children were baptized, which made the children formal members of the churches involved. But still fewer acknowledge that even baptism wasn’t enough to have the children listed in a parish register – something that would have at least prevented their deaths from going unrecorded. The churches lost sight of the children’s very humanity. “If this is your worldview, you’re in trouble,” the Archbishop says.

Archbishop Mark L. MacDonald has served as pastoral leader to Indigenous Peoples in the Anglican Church of Canada since 2007, and he’s been the National Indigenous Anglican Archbishop since 2019. (Photo is courtesy of Peter Williams and World Council of Churches.)

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Monday, July 5, 2021 in , ,
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