Content Warning: The following story may be distressing.

A former residential school survivor said it was emotional to hear the Archbishop of Canterbury apologize for the Anglican Church’s involvement in residential schools.

The spiritual leader of the Anglican church visited James Smith Cree Nation on Saturday where he heard stories of several residential school survivors. “I am more sorry than I could ever begin to express,” said Archbishop Justin Welby.

Yet, for George Merasty, he wasn’t expecting an apology, but called it a good thing. “Before we went into the building, he said I’m so sorry. And that I wasn’t expecting that,” explained Merasty. “It just made me think about all my friends that never got to hear that apology.”

Merasty recounted the day he was taken from his home on Sturgeon Lake to attend residential school.

“There was a minister that came there and took me, which I thought was their car ride and took me to that residential school,” Merasty said. He explained that he called the All Saints Residential School home for the next nine years.

The Anglican Church is the second theological organization this year to apologize for residential schools. The Pope issued an apology in March to a small gathering of Indigenous leaders at the Vatican and pledged to come to Canada this summer to express his regret to survivors and their families.

For Merasty, hearing the apology is a step in the right direction for accepting responsibility for what was done. He said the intergenerational impacts of residential schools on First Nations people continue to be felt today, pointing to homelessness, addictions and suicide, but also broken families.

“Just by listening to their stories, you can sort of see where they’re coming from. Even from my own experience, how I raised my children. It wasn’t good the first few years because I was lost. I didn’t know how to love. I say I love you. And I didn’t want my children to come close to me,” he said.

It wasn’t until Merasty started his own healing journey of learning to first love himself and then grant forgiveness.

The Anglican church previously apologized for its role in residential schools in 1993 and 2019 and has provided over $12 million in compensation.  However, Welby admits more needs to be done.

Welby told reporters he hopes to see action coming from the Anglican church in the next few months, but says any form of financial compensation may take more time.

(With files from Joel Willick. Photo by Joel Willick)

Support is available for anyone affected by the lingering effects of residential school and those who are triggered by the latest 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.