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Indigenous Peoples and the Catholic Church on the Healing Path

Postal card of Mary Queen of the World Cathedral (Photo : Centre d'histoire de Montréal)

Indigenous Peoples and the Catholic Church on the Healing Path

As we learn more about the realities of colonization and the inhumane treatment of the Indigenous people, and as the Catholic Church’s complicity in these affairs is brought to light, there has arisen a need for healing, forgiveness and reconciliation. Some proposals that have taken form are fostering hope.

Following the article of July 6, there have been some important developments:


Indigenous in Montreal?

Looking at the map of Quebec’s Indigenous communities, we see that none are situated within Montreal. However, 16,820 people living in the territory served by the Diocese of Montreal declared themselves as Indigenous, according to the 2016 census. In the territory of the Montreal metropolitan region, there were 34,750. From this number, 15,455 declared themselves as Métis, nearly double the number according to the 2011 census. These numbers should be viewed with some scepticism, since many Indigenous do not participate in the census; and the Métis at heart are not are not considered as such according to the Canadian system. The off-reserve population is growing, as the statistics for Quebec show; some of this population is in Montreal. Others who are not permanently settled are not counted (studies, temporary work, illness...).

What efforts are being made towards reconciliation?

The City of Montreal has changed its flag to include a symbol of the city’s Indigenous presence; last year the street called Amherst was changed to Atateken; also last year, a strategy for reconciliation was adopted: https://montreal.ca/en/articles/2020-2025-strategy-reconciliation-indigenous-peoples-7760

Find out about these strategies and how you can participate according to your interests and abilities.

The Montreal Canadiens hockey team has decided to make an announcement of territorial recognition before each home game: https://www.nhl.com/canadiens/news/canadiens-to-feature-land-acknowledgement-at-home-games/c-326898474. These statements of recognition have already become the practice in universities and many organizations. The statement can be adapted in order to emphasize our belonging jointly to common territory and our mutual responsibility for its protection; as well as through the inclusion of the Anishinaabe Nation (formerly called ‘Algonquin’), who constitute another protector of the territory.

And in the Church, how can we take part in reconciliation?

Prayer and the sacraments are important sources of reconciliation, opening the heart and calling for peace. Since the earliest days of Ville-Marie, communications were held between the settlers and the Indigenous populations, and those relations have continued down to this day. Some of the interactions were positive, while others were less so.


  • Religious communities are helping to promote awareness and appreciation of Indigenous cultures. Several of these religious communities are parties to the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement and have paid substantial amounts in compensation. The Sulpicians have been accused by the community of Kanehsatà:ke of having dispossessed the latter of their land. The Jesuit Archive, located in Montreal, is an important source for tracing the Wendat language.
  • A Montreal organist, Bernardin Houle (1923-2020) took the bus from St. Leonard every Sunday for 62 years accompanying the choir of the St. Francis Xavier community in Kahnawake. Many others among the faithful have stories of such social friendship to tell...
  • Mission chez nous, founded and supported by the Bishops of Quebec and chaired by Archbishop Christian Lépine, raises funds for Catholic Aboriginal communities and promotes awareness of the issues facing these nations. The radio broadcast Confluents can be heard Mondays at 1:30 p.m. on Radio VM.
  • On September 30, the Archbishop installed a new statue of St. Kateri Tekakwitha at the Cathedral with faithful from Kahnawake and the diocese in attendance: https://www.diocesemontreal.org/en/news-and-info/latest-news/blessing-statue-saint-kateri-tekakwitha-mary-queen-world-cathedral
  • Each year on December 12, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops issues a message calling on all people to pray in solidarity with Indigenous Peoples.

The Social Action Office promotes initiatives towards reconciliation on the part of numerous groups, such as: