Editor’s note: This article contains some disturbing details about residential schools in Canada and may be upsetting to some readers. For those in need of emotional support, the 24-hour Residential Schools Crisis Line is available at 1-866-925-4419.
A Mississauga pastor has resigned after making public comments about “the good done” in the residential school system.
According to a statement from the Archdiocese of Toronto, Cardinal Collins has accepted Monsignor Owen Keenan’s resignation and he has been placed on “indefinite leave.”
“We apologize for the pain caused by his recent remarks,” read a tweet sent late Friday night.
Videos of Msgr. Keenan of Merciful Redeemer Parish speaking about residential schools on June 19 and 20 were posted online. In them, Keenan is heard saying how “many people had very positive experiences of residential schools” and that “they weren’t universally awful.”
“I presume the same number would thank the Church for the good that was done in those schools, but of course that question was never asked. And in fact, we are not allowed to even say that good was done in those schools,” he goes on to say.
Keenan later said, “We don’t know how those children died. We don’t and can’t know if they would have died had they stayed at home.”
His comments were made after the discovery of the remains of 215 children at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C., and after another 751 unmarked graves were discovered in Saskatchewan.
Keenan later apologized for “any hurt I have caused” and pledged to do better.
The Archdiocese of Toronto said in a previous statement that Keenan had pledged to “fully educate himself” to gain a more “wholesome understanding of the full history of residential schools and their impact in our country.” They added that he would not be presiding over any services this weekend or in the coming days but made no mention at the time of him leaving.