Manitoba

Manitoba archbishop apologizes after priest accuses residential school survivors of lying about abuse

The archbishop of Manitoba’s St. Boniface Catholic diocese says he completely disavows statements made by a priest which included casting aspersions on the motives of Indigenous people who made residential school claims. 

Priest's comments have put reconciliation into 'dark ages,' residential school survivor says

Archbishop Albert LeGatt of Manitoba’s St. Boniface Catholic diocese says Father Rhéal Forest 'deeply, deeply hurt people' with his recent remarks about residential school survivors. (Archdiocese of St. Boniface/Facebook)

WARNING: This story contains distressing details.

The archbishop of Manitoba's St. Boniface Catholic diocese says he completely disavows statements made by a priest which included casting aspersions on the motives of Indigenous people who made residential school claims. 

"I'm not just sorry, or regret, and I hope more and more people will come to that place," Archbishop Albert LeGatt said in a nearly 11-minute address posted to the diocese's Facebook page on Thursday

LeGatt was responding to controversy which erupted Thursday after CBC News published comments made by Father Rhéal Forest during sermons over weeks of services at St. Emile Roman Catholic Church this summer. 

The sermons were part of services live streamed and posted to St. Emile's Facebook page.

In one of them, Forest accused residential school survivors of lying about being sexually abused so they would receive more money during the settlement process with the federal government.

In another, Forest joked about shooting those who wrote graffiti on churches. 

"I completely disavow his words and the attitudes, and thinking and approaches behind those words," LeGatt said. 

"His words have deeply, deeply hurt people," LeGatt said of Forest, who had been temporarily placed at the parish while its regular pastor was on vacation. 

Forest had been withdrawn from preaching and teaching forums, the archdiocese has said and LeGatt confirmed in the video. 

The videos involving Forest have since been removed. 

LeGatt said he encouraged all Catholics to go beyond apologizing for what took place at residential schools to asking for forgiveness.

"That's what we're saying to First Nation, Metis and Inuit people," LeGatt said. "Please forgive us." 

Priest should be defrocked, survivor says 

Residential school survivor Vivian Ketchum says she was left angry and in disbelief at Father Rhéal Forest's comments. (CBC)

A residential school survivor, however, said Forest's remarks have "broken" efforts at reconciliation. 

"His words buried my story again," said Vivian Ketchum. "He's put it back in the shadows. Reconciliation has taken a step in the dark ages again," she said. 

The 53-year-old was physically and sexually abused as a child in the 1970s at the Cecilia Jeffery Indian Residential School in Kenora.

WATCH | Residential school survivor condemns Catholic priest who accused survivors of lying about abuse:

Residential school survivor condemns Catholic priest who accused survivors of lying about abuse for money

3 months ago
2:25
A Catholic priest has been banned from speaking publicly after he accused residential school survivors of lying about the abuse they faced. He also joked about shooting those who wrote graffiti on churches. A warning that some may find the details in this story disturbing. 2:25

Ketchum said Forest's remarks left her angry and in disbelief. Substantiating a claim for settlement involved extensive interviews and medical reports that went on for months, she said. 

"How dare he? I went through hell trying to prove my claim," she said. 

The punishment meted out to Forest wasn't enough, Ketchum said, adding she wanted to see Forest defrocked and the church lose its charitable status.


Support is available for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools, and those who are triggered by these 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.

Do you know of a child who never came home from residential school? Or someone who worked at one? We would like to hear from you. Email our Indigenous-led team investigating the impacts of residential schools at wherearethey@cbc.ca or call toll-free: 1-833-824-0800.

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