For Immediate Release
June 24, 2021

STATEMENT: Mayor Crombie Responds to Comments Made by Monsignor Owen Keenan

“I was extremely disappointed to learn about some of the comments Monsignor Owen Keenan made during recent homilies at the Merciful Redeemer Parish – comments about the residential school system and about catholic schools in Peel choosing to fly the Pride flag during Pride Month.

In regard to his comments on residential schools, what Monsignor Keenan said was deeply insensitive to Indigenous Canadians, particularly at a time when Indigenous communities are in pain as they unearth more mass graves at the sites of former residential schools. His comments show a fundamental misunderstanding of one of the core tragedies of the residential school system in Canada: that children were forcibly separated from their parents.

For the first time we are truly confronting our history and learning the truth about what really happened. I grieve for the hundreds, and likely thousands of children in the unmarked graves who never had a full life and experienced tremendous pain and suffering, and deep sadness.

History is taught a certain way by those in power and often obscures the real truth of behind what really happened.

The government of Canada and many churches, including the Catholic Church, operated Canada’s residential schools for close to 150 years. Residential schools were instruments of cultural genocide used against Indigenous Peoples. While we are finally listening to the voices of those who experienced first hand residential schools, too many other voices were silenced and lost forever.

As a practicing Catholic, I am wrestling with how the teachings of Jesus Christ to love your neighbour as yourself are at all reflected in the atrocities that are now coming to light. No apology from the federal government or the Church will be enough to undo the havoc that was wreaked through these institutions, but an apology is where we must start. It’s basic and it is a fundamental foundation to our reconciliation.

We must learn the full and real truth, reflect on it and act. All of us, the Church included, must understand the role our predecessors played. We must atone for the actions of our forebears and their sins.

Then, and only then, can we attempt to reconcile with our Indigenous brothers and sisters.

I was also very disappointed that Monsignor Keenan suggested in a sermon that Dufferin-Peel Catholic schools lacked courage for raising the Pride Flag.

This also stands in stark contrast to my own beliefs.

Earlier this month, a group of Mississauga students burned a Pride Flag and posted it on social media, illustrating that we still have so much work to do to eliminate hate and discrimination right here in Peel Region.

I have spoken to Monsignor Keenan and told him how his comments have no place in Mississauga. He expressed his shame and remorse for his comments and told me he will seek the forgiveness of residential schools survivors. In a statement posted on the Merciful Redeemer Parish’s website, Monsignor Keenan has unequivocally apologized. As a faith leader, he has a duty to seek the truth and redemption.

Right now, communities across Canada are grappling with how to eliminate hate and discrimination, as well as how we can play a meaningful role in helping reach true reconciliation with Indigenous communities. All of us – individuals, governments, and private institutions – should not only be denouncing racism and discrimination, but working actively to build inclusivity in everything we do, which ultimately creates mutual understanding and respect, and which ultimately challenges existing prejudices.”

-Bonnie Crombie, Mayor of Mississauga