'In the Spirit of Reconciliation': new film explores role of Catholic Church in healing

Vancouver filmmaker and priest Father Larry Lynn explores what reconciliation looks like in the small community of Fort Providence, N.W.T. Both clergy and parishioners are figuring out how to move from the harmful past to a brighter future together.

Vancouver filmmaker Father Larry Lynn finds tales of forgiveness

The story of a northern parish moving forward with faith and foregiveness 8:59

Father Larry Lynn, a Vancouver-based priest and filmmaker, captures residual tension between residential school survivors and the Catholic Church in his new film In The Spirit of Reconciliation.

The documentary portrays tales of sorrow, hardship — and ultimately forgiveness.

"They were damaged coming out of residential schools, and [many continue to] have problems that were engendered by residential schools," said Lynn

Nearly 100 calls to action from the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission aim to redress the country's dark legacy of residential schools — an era that saw 150,000 Indigenous children taken away from their families. Thousands died at schools far from home.

A number of those requests —  including an appeal to the Pope to issue a formal apology —  are directed at the Roman Catholic Church which operated up to 60 per cent of residential schools.

Bishop Mark Hagemoen greets parishioners at St. Michael's Parish in Behchoko, N.W.T. (Jack Ong)

The Spirit of Reconciliation

The film follows Indigenous elders in the small town of Fort Providence, N.W.T., most notably Monique Sabourin — a dedicated parishioner and a survivor of residential school.

"We asked her two questions and she just spoke for 45 minutes," said Lynn. "She just told me her story as if it was written out: paradise lost, paradise regained — and she was just beautiful."

Sabourin was taken away from her life on the land when she was a child. She spent her later years struggling with alcohol before 'finding God'.

She was ultimately able to come to terms with her past and forgive.

Monique Sabourine is a Dene Elder and residential school survivor in Fort Providence, N.W.T. (Jack Ong)

He admits the road to reconciliation is long, but hopes religion can play a role in helping people heal.

"It would be lovely if Pope Francis came here and apologized," he said. "Apologies are useful, people get something from them. They get the idea that, 'Someone is hearing my hurt.' And that can help that healing of the hurt."

The film will be launched at the SFU Goldcorp Centre Dec. 6 at 7 p.m. Monique Sabourin will be in attendance.

Watch  Father Lynn's interview (above) with Our Vancouver host Gloria Macarenko.