The Mennonite Central Committee supported an Indigenous boarding home that’s under investigation by the Saskatchewan RCMP.
The Mounties say a complaint was made in 2020 about a death that potentially occurred at the Timber Bay Children’s Home in 1974.
At the time, the home was operated by the Brethren in Christ Church, (now called the Be in Christ Church), with support from Winnipeg-based MCC. The group supplied volunteers for the home, which housed Métis, First Nations and non-Indigenous children, from across Canada from 1973 to 1990.
The Home served as a school until 1969, when a school opened in Timber Bay and students went to that school. Some also went to a reserve school at nearby Montreal Lake First Nation.
No charges have been laid.
In a statement, MCC Canada executive director Rick Cober Bauman said, "We lament the pain experienced by residential school survivors and intergenerational survivors. We are committed to walking alongside Indigenous Peoples seeking justice and will co-operate fully with any investigations."
Given the legal status of the case, Cober Bauman said MCC was unable to provide further comment.
Although the Roman Catholic, United and Anglican churches operated most of the residential schools in Canada, Mennonites were involved in a few of them.
According to Mennonite Church Canada, Mennonites became involved with residential schools during the Second World War when Mennonite conscientious objectors were placed as teachers in day and residential schools in Manitoba.
From 1948 to 1968 Mennonites operated day schools at Pauingassi and Bloodvein in Manitoba, and in Alberta. For 24 years, from 1962–1989, the Northern Lights Gospel Mission, a Mennonite organization based in the U.S., operated three residential schools in northwestern Ontario at Poplar Hill, Stirland Lake and Crystal Lake.
In 1997 the mission, which was renamed Impact North Ministries, apologized to Indigenous people for its role in residential schools. It apologized again in 2013.
In 2014, MCC expressed regret for "our part in the assimilation practice that took away language use and cultural practice, separated child from parent, parent from child, and Indigenous peoples from their culture."
"We are aware that we have a long path to walk," it added. "We hope to build relationships with First Nations communities so that we can continue this learning journey and walk this path together."
John Longhurst has been writing for Winnipeg's faith pages since 2003. He also writes for Religion News Service in the U.S., and blogs about the media, marketing and communications at Making the News.