Media releases

  • Brock experts say actions must accompany Pope’s expected apology to Indigenous communities

    EXPERT ADVISORY: 21 July 2022 – R0081

    When Pope Francis arrives in Canada Sunday to continue reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, he must deliver more than an apology for the Catholic Church’s role in the residential school system, say Brock University experts.

    The Pope will meet with Indigenous communities in Alberta, Quebec and Nunavut from July 24 to 29 and is expected to issue an apology while on Canadian soil — one of 94 Calls to Action laid out by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

    “Action must follow words,” says Brock University Assistant Professor of Education Stanley ‘Bobby’ Henry, a member of the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory community.

    “It’s a repeating pattern for organizations, agencies and governments to follow an apology with concrete action that results in meaningful change, but this has not always been the case,” he says. “Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized on behalf of Canada and Canadians but later argued that Canada has no history of colonialism. In short, an apology doesn’t bring home the children lost to the system.”

    Henry says one of the key actions that must now take place is the release of additional records by the Catholic Church and other organizations that oversaw residential schools.

    “I know many scholars and experts in the field of residential schools have said some government and Church records are intentionally being withheld from the public,” he says. “If this is the case, we will never fully know the truth. We will forever be lodged in figuring out the truth when we should be reconciling.”

    Along with releasing its records, the Church and the current Pope must fully denounce the historical methodology it used to justify colonization, Henry says.

    “The Church needs to denounce the Doctrine of Discovery,” he says of the centuries-old papal statements that sought to morally and legally justify the displacement of Indigenous Peoples by explorers. “Residential schools were the weapons of colonization, whereas ancient legal doctrines allowed the mistreatment of Indigenous people to happen. If our humanity was respected throughout history and our rights were not denied, I firmly believe Canada’s history would have looked very different.”

    Should action be taken by the Catholic Church, it would be considered part of the restorative justice process, which is intended to repair harm and restore relationships “toward a greater sense of equilibrium,” says Shannon Moore, Professor in Brock’s Department of Child and Youth Studies.

    Participation in the process must be voluntary, sensitive towards power relationships and social and structural inequalities, and is shaped by the needs of the communities impacted by wrongdoing or crime, says Moore, a counselling psychologist and registered psychotherapist who has been engaged in restorative justice research and practice for more than two decades.

    The issuing of an apology must begin with understanding, acknowledging and taking responsibility for the truth and the impact of harm caused, she says.

    Moore says there are four steps to making an authentic, effective apology:

    • understanding and acknowledging the truth of the harm caused
    • articulating that wrong-doing clearly and taking responsibility for the harm caused
    • expression of sincere regret for the harm caused
    • reparation and action to address the harm caused

    Forgiveness is complex, individual, “extremely painful” and is not necessarily a given outcome of an apology or restorative justice process, Moore says.

    “Forgiveness is not an event but a process that takes time; healing is not instant,” she says. “Similar to forgiveness, we may go through the excruciating pain of lancing a wound, allowing the toxicity to drain from the body, and then wait for the healing to begin.”

    But before Canadian society can begin thinking about the future, it still has much to learn about the horrors of the past, Henry says.

    “The majority of Canadians don’t know the history of Canada and Indigenous people,” he says. “Without knowledge, people will not know why an apology holds any significance. People will forget that reconciliation is part of treaties that allow Canada to exist. Simply put, Canadians will think that an apology for past atrocities means ‘everything is better, so let’s progress not regress,’ but they don’t realize that our current realities are shaped by atrocities their ancestors did — both willingly and unwillingly.”

    Henry says it’s important to remember that the Pope’s meeting with residential school survivors is not the defining moment of truth and reconciliation.

    “A lot of work is still needed,” he says. “The defining moment will be when Indigenous children have access to their culture and language in schools, Indigenous people can fully participate in society without facing racism, and settlers can call out injustices as they happen.”

    Brock University Assistant Professor of Education Stanley ‘Bobby’ Henry and Professor of Child and Youth Studies Shannon Moore are available for media interviews on the topic.

    For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:

    * Doug Hunt, Communications and Media Relations Specialist, Brock University or 905-941-6209

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    Categories: Media releases

  • Brock students, volunteers uncovering St. Catharines’ maritime past at local dig

    MEDIA RELEASE: 19 July 2022 – R0080

    New discoveries are already being made at the historic Shickluna Shipyard in downtown St. Catharines — and volunteers are being invited to join in the experience.

    The second season of the archaeological dig near Twelve Mile Creek got underway last week after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    “We’re thrilled to return to the Shickluna Shipyard and share in the experience of exploring local historical and maritime archaeology with our Brock University students and the wider Niagara community,” says archaeologist Kimberly Monk, Adjunct Professor with Brock University’s Department of History.

    The 2022 field school is building on the success of the 2019 season, with further excavation of two key locations: a worker’s cottage and a boathouse. The site was first used as a shipyard by Russell Armington from 1828 to 1837 and then by Maltese immigrant Louis Shickluna from 1838 to 1880. Joseph Shickluna was the last to run the shipyard from 1880 to 1891 before it was leased to the St. Catharines Box and Basket Company until 1901.

    “The 2019 season provided an opportunity to examine the first physical evidence from this important Great Lakes shipyard,” says Monk.

    The team, she adds, was able to excavate down to the years spanning 1830 to 1940 and are looking forward to excavating more features and artifacts this season.

    Volunteers are still welcome to join field school students. No archaeological experience is needed to volunteer in the lab, where artifacts are carefully cleaned and catalogued. Previous field school or on-site training is required for those wishing to assist in excavation.

    Ben Riopelle, a Brock History student beginning his third year this fall, is excited to be a part of the field school, where he hopes to soak in all he can about archaeology after being inspired by a course he took with Monk last year.

    “It’s a lot of work but it’s worth it,” he says. “This isn’t something you can really experience any other place, especially if you’re from the area. It’s a good place to learn local history, especially since Shickluna Shipyard is such an important part of St. Catharines’ past.”

    The field school has attracted participants from across Canada and even around the world.

    Miranda Gardner, who is doing a part-time archaeology degree with Cambridge University in the U.K., recently moved back to Canada from Mexico. She was excited to discover an archaeology field school happening close to where she has family living.

    “I wanted to do something in the field because we don’t get to learn in person yet at Cambridge,” she says, while encouraging potential volunteers to take advantage of the opportunity. “Someone will help you figure out what to do and it’s always more fun to jump in when learning something new.”

    The Shickluna Shipyard offers a significant connection to St. Catharines’ industrial past and the history of the Welland Canal.

    “We are eager to continue our work in reconnecting with the legacies of St. Catharines’ maritime community,” says Monk, noting the major role the marine industry played in the development of the Niagara region.

    Excavations at the site continue until Aug. 12. Members of the public are invited to visit the site during a series of open house events on Aug. 10, 13 and 14, with more details to follow in the coming weeks.

    Those interested in volunteering with the project can contact Monk at

    For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:

    * Doug Hunt, Communications and Media Relations Specialist, Brock University or 905-941-6209 

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    Categories: Media releases