Parishioners at Sidney’s St. Andrews Anglican Church joined churchgoers across the region to remember the lives of 215 Indigenous children found in unmarked graves near a former residential school in Kamloops by ringing their church’s bell 215 times.
Rector Eric Partridge said the ringing of the bell is a call to action, but also an acknowledgement of the role that the Anglican Church played in the residential school system.
“(An) apology is not enough,” he said. “You have to act and this is a reminder to the community to remind them to put their mind not just to a group of people. These are real people, whose life ended.”
While current church members did not play part in the residential school system, the church itself did, he said.
“And we are part of the church. We are stepping forward to be allies of not just the lost children, but also their families and those who survived in the residential school system and who are still struggling with the trauma of that. It’s an important thing for us to recognize our place in that.”
Parishioners who rang the bell also lit 215 candles.
Sunday’s bell ringing in Sidney, which started at noon, was part of an effort by Anglican churches across Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. Comparable commemorations have also happened elsewhere in B.C. and Canada, as well as denominational boundaries.
The Catholic Church ran the former Kamloops Indian Residential School located on the territory of Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation from 1890 to 1969, before the federal government assumed control of it.
“Ringing these bells today won’t make a difference in a big sense,” said Partridge, when asked earlier why he believed this action would make a difference this time around when held up against other comparable actions and the well-documented history of the residential school system. “But it is part of a journey.”
In March 2017, then Bishop Logan McMenamie of the Diocese of Vancouver Island, walked 470 kilometres from Alert Bay to Victoria, as part of efforts to recognize and reconcile the church’s history with First Nations. During his walk, McMenamie asked First Nations along the way for forgiveness for the church’s role in colonialism and permission to re-enter their lands as visitors.
“This (church bell ringing) is another step in that journey,” said Partridge.
The Anglican Church of Canada issued a formal apology for its role in the residential school system in 1993, a move which the Catholic Church has not made so far.
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