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Catholic archbishop asks forgiveness from Mi’kmaq for Shubenacadie Indian Residential School

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The leader of a Roman Catholic archdiocese in Nova Scotia knelt in front of a congregation including residential school survivors Monday and personally apologized for the church’s conduct at the Shubenacadie Indian Residential School. 

The apology was offered during a special mass held at St. Mary’s Basilica in Halifax on Treaty Day, which marks the signing of the Peace and Friendship Treaties between the British Crown and Mi’kmaq, Wolastoqiyik and Peskotomuhkati in 1752 and 1760.

Archbishop Anthony Mancini of the Halifax-Yarmouth Archdiocese read a homily that recognized the Mi’kmaq’s autonomy and unceded territory, and touched on the « failures of the past » during the residential school era. 

He and Bishop Brian Dunn from the Diocese of Antigonish then knelt in front of the congregation to read a « Rite of Forgiveness. » 

Halifax-Yarmouth Archbishop Anthony Mancini says ‘We failed miserably in this whole thing.’ (CBC News)

« On this day, we personally and in our roles as leaders of the Catholic Church in Nova Scotia, kneel before the representatives of the Mi’kmaq nation to express our regret, sorrow and apology for the hurts, violence and abuse experienced in the residential school of Shubenacadie, for the participation of the Church in the promotion of misguided policies of assimilation and for our involvement in undermining aboriginal culture, language and spirituality, » the bishops said. 

The Rite’s text went on to address the church’s support of racist practices, and the involvement of church members in maintaining « inhuman and inadequate life conditions » for the Mi’kmaq and « indifference » to their plight.

They then requested the forgiveness needed « if reconciliation is to take place. »

‘I felt so emotional’

« When I talk about it, my eyes fill up now, » said Margaret Poulette of We’koqma’q First Nation, who was at the Treaty Day service. 

She attended the Shubenacadie residential school from 1940 to 1945. Though she’s hard of hearing and couldn’t see the front of the church, Poulette said she still felt the importance of the moment. 

As the archbishop spoke, she said, her thoughts were of her sister, brother and friends who also attended the school. 

« I felt so emotional when they were walking out after [the service], » she said.

« It was positive for me, anyway. My two daughters were there … After church they came and hugged me. They were crying. »

Mi’kmaq girls in sewing class at the Roman Catholic-run Shubenacadie Indian Residential School in Shubenacadie, N.S. (Library and Archives Canada)

Poulette said she thought the service was emotional for survivors in attendance, some of whom she said are steadfast against the Roman Catholic religion as a result of their time at the schools, and attended only as part of Treaty Day celebrations. She said no one expected an apology.

Poulette, who goes to mass every Sunday, said her daughters have questioned why she remains a practising Catholic despite the history of the schools. 

« I told them, it wasn’t God that did it. It was individual people that did it, » she said.

‘A gesture of respect’

Archbishop Mancini told CBC News the apology was « intended to be a gesture of respect, a gesture of acknowledgement — humility for our weak humanity. »

« We failed miserably in this whole thing. »

Pope Francis has yet to apologize for the church’s role in residential schools, but Archbishop Anthony Mancini said he believes it could still happen. (Andrew Medichini/Associated Press)

Mancini said he understands the impact that an apology from Pope Francis could have, and said he believes it will come, eventually. But in the meantime, he said work to rebuild the relationship between the church and Indigenous Peoples in Canada will take place in each individual community.

Mancini said his apology stemmed from listening sessions the church has been holding with Mi’kmaq leaders and Elders since April. 

He said kneeling before the Mi’kmaq in the congregation was important, given the gesture’s meaning in Catholicism — to be less than perfect or dependent on God’s support, as sinners. 

« I thought that this situation with the Mi’kmaq was such that the failings of our past were sufficiently serious that it needed something powerful like the gesture of kneeling to indicate that we, or I am, really sorry for what took place. »

More discussions to come

The archbishop said that further to the apology, he hopes to implement some « concrete actions » like having a Mi’kmaq flag in every parish and acknowledging Mi’kmaq burial grounds around the province and « honouring them » in an appropriate way. But he said before any of that happens, more discussions with Mi’kmaq leaders and Elders will take place, as well as internal discussions with his colleagues.

Rose Marie Prosper, also of We’koqma’q First Nation, wasn’t able to attend the church service, but saw social media posts of the Rite of Forgiveness. She said she hasn’t stopped thinking about it. 

« I would’ve been shocked myself, if I was there, » she said. « It’s something I would not have expected, especially on Treaty Day. » 

Prosper attended Shubenacadie residential school from 1960 to 1967, when the school closed. She said that her time there has left her with flashbacks and painful memories of isolation.

She said she’s strayed from Catholicism for most of her life as a result of its practice being forced on her but that she’s recently begun to pray again. While she said it will take time for her to accept the apology and what it means to her, she said it may help her to heal. 

« It’s given me more time to pray, and a reason: forgiveness, healing, » she said. 

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‘Business as usual’ for Dorel Industries after terminating go-private deal

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MONTREAL — Dorel Industries Inc. says it will continue to pursue its business strategy going forward after terminating an agreement to go private after discussions with shareholders.

« Moving ahead. Business as usual, » a spokesman for the company said in an email on Monday.

A group led by Cerberus Capital Management had previously agreed to buy outstanding shares of Dorel for $16 apiece, except for shares owned by the family that controls the company’s multiple-voting shares.

But Dorel chief executive Martin Schwartz said the Montreal-based maker of car seats, strollers, bicycles and home furniture pulled the plug on a deal on the eve of Tuesday’s special meeting after reviewing votes from shareholders.

“Independent shareholders have clearly expressed their confidence in Dorel’s future and the greater potential for Dorel as a public entity, » he said in a news release.

Dorel’s board of directors, with Martin Schwartz, Alan Schwartz, Jeffrey Schwartz and Jeff Segel recused, unanimously approved the deal’s termination upon the recommendation of a special committee.

The transaction required approval by two-thirds of the votes cast, and more than 50 per cent of the votes cast by non-family shareholders.

Schwartz said enhancing shareholder value remains a top priority while it stays focused on growing its brands, which include Schwinn and Mongoose bikes, Safety 1st-brand car seats and DHP Furniture.

Dorel said the move to end the go-private deal was mutual, despite the funds’ increased purchase price offer earlier this year.

It said there is no break fee applicable in this case.

Montreal-based investment firm Letko, Brosseau & Associates Inc. and San Diego’s Brandes Investment Partners LP, which together control more than 19 per cent of Dorel’s outstanding class B subordinate shares voiced their opposition to the amended offer, which was increased from the initial Nov. 2 offer of $14.50 per share.

« We believe that several minority shareholders shared our opinion, » said Letko vice-president Stephane Lebrun, during a phone interview.

« We are confident of the long-term potential of the company and we have confidence in the managers in place.”

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Anglais

Pandemic funds helping Montreal businesses build for a better tomorrow

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Many entrepreneurs have had to tap into government loans during the pandemic, at first just to survive, but now some are using the money to better prepare their businesses for the post-COVID future.

One of those businesses is Del Friscos, a popular family restaurant in Dollard-des-Ormeaux that, like many Montreal-area restaurants, has had to adapt from a sit-down establishment to one that takes orders online for takeout or delivery.

“It was hard going from totally in-house seating,” said Del Friscos co-owner Terry Konstas. “We didn’t have an in-house delivery system, which we quickly added. There were so many of our employees that were laid off that wanted to work so we adapted to a delivery system and added platforms like Uber and DoorDash.”

Helping them through the transition were emergency grants and low-interest loans from the federal and provincial governments, some of which are directly administered by PME MTL, a non-profit business-development organization established to assist the island’s small and medium-sized businesses.

Konstas said he had never even heard of PME MTL until a customer told him about them and when he got in touch, he discovered there were many government programs available to help his business get through the downturn and build for the future. “They’ve been very helpful right from day one,” said Konstas.

“We used some of the funds to catch up on our suppliers and our rents, the part that wasn’t covered from the federal side, and we used some of it for our new virtual concepts,” he said, referring to a virtual kitchen model which the restaurant has since adopted.

The virtual kitchen lets them create completely different menu items from the casual American Italian dishes that Del Friscos is known for and market them under different restaurant brand names. Under the Prasinó Soup & Salad banner, they sell healthy Greek options and their Stallone’s Sub Shop brand offers hearty sandwiches, yet the food from both is created in the same Del Friscos kitchen.

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Downtown Montreal office, retail vacancies continue to rise

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Some of downtown Montreal’s key economic indicators are heading in the wrong direction.

Office and retail vacancies in the city’s central core continued to climb in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to a quarterly report released Thursday by the Urban Development Institute of Quebec and the Montréal Centre-Ville merchants association. The report, whose first edition was published in October, aims to paint a socio-economic picture of the downtown area.

The survey also found office space available for sublet had increased during the fourth quarter, which may foreshadow even more vacancies when leases expire. On the residential front, condo sales fell as new listings soared — a sign that the downtown area may be losing some of its appeal to homeowners.

“It’s impossible not to be preoccupied by the rapid increase in office vacancies,” Jean-Marc Fournier, the former Quebec politician who now heads the UDI, said Thursday in an interview.

Still, with COVID-19 vaccinations set to accelerate in the coming months, “the economic picture is bound to improve,” he said. “People will start returning downtown. It’s much too early to say the office market is going to disappear.”

Public health measures implemented since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago — such as caps on office capacity — have deprived downtown Montreal of more than 500,000 workers and students. A mere 4,163 university and CEGEP students attended in-person classes in the second quarter, the most recent period for which figures are available. Border closures and travel restrictions have also brought tourism to a standstill, hurting hotels and thousands of local businesses.

Seventy per cent of downtown workers carried out their professional activities at home more than three days a week during the fourth quarter, the report said, citing an online survey of 1,000 Montreal-area residents conducted last month.

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