Fontaine regrets blaming all Catholics for his school trauma

Ex-national chief participates in ceremony adopting Archbishop Weisberger as brother

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A sombre Phil Fontaine apologized Saturday for indiscriminately blaming all Catholics for his treatment in residential schools.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 15/04/2012 (3880 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A sombre Phil Fontaine apologized Saturday for indiscriminately blaming all Catholics for his treatment in residential schools.

“I tarred everyone with the same brush — I was wrong, simply wrong,” former Assembly of First Nations national chief Fontaine told a gathering of reconciliation at Thunderbird House. “I apologize. I say that from my heart.”

Fontaine was part of a traditional ceremony in which he and three other men adopted Archbishop James Weisgerber as their brother as an act of reconciliation.

Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press James Weisgerber (centre), the Archbishop of Winnipeg, and his adopted brothers Tobasonakwut Kinew, Bert Fontaine, Phil Fontaine and Fred Kelly dance around the Thunderbird House after the ceremony. Anishinaabe elders and community leaders Tobasonakwut Kinew, Fred Kelly, Phil Fontaine and Bert Fontaine adopted James in a traditional "Naabagoondiwin" adoption ceremony at the Thunderbird House.

It is the first such ceremony held since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission began hearing the stories of residential school survivors.

Weisgerber said he was deeply moved by the willingness of aboriginal people to forgive after the church did so much damage to them and their culture.

“I believe we have a very long way to go, but it’s a road worth travelling,” Weisgerber said.

He was adopted in the traditional ceremony by Fontaine, his brother Bert Fontaine and elders Fred Kelly and Tobasonakwut Kinew.

“I’m honoured to be here — this is an historic event,” said Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Derek Nepinak, who served as witness to the adoption.

Nepinak said the adoption ceremony is the beginning of moving from words to actions in the healing process.

But he has not suggested to his counterparts in other provinces that they consider doing the same.

“This is an initiative led by individuals,” Nepinak said. “I haven’t reached out to my political counterparts, because it’s not a political initiative.”

As the five brothers each spoke in turn, Fontaine issued his own apology.

His past public reaction to his experiences in residential schools overshadowed the goodness of many people, Fontaine said. “My words have also hurt a lot of people, my bitterness, my anger. I was indiscriminate in my words.”

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

 

 

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