The Ven. Michael Thompson, general secretary of the Anglican Church of Canada, speaking says the church wants to do more to help prevent suicides in northern Ontario First Nations
‘Help us direct our actions in ways that will help end the crisis,’ Anglican Church asks First Nations
The Anglican Church of Canada says it will continue working with First Nations in northern Ontario to confront the “legacy of brokenness” created by a pedophile priest who worked in remote communities in the 1970s and 80s.
Ralph Rowe worked as a priest and boy scout leader and flew a plane with the Anglican Church logo into remote First Nations in northern Ontario where his “abuse was massive in its scope and horrendous in its impact,” said a statement on Friday from Michael Thompson, general secretary of the Anglican Church of Canada.
First Nations leaders referred to Rowe’s legacy of abuse in Wapekeka First Nation during a news conference on Thursday about two 12-year-old girls who died by suicide within days of each other earlier this month.
Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler said Rowe was a “monster” who abused more than 500 children during his time working in northern Ontario and leading to an intergenerational suicide crisis in Wapekeka.
“We’ve reached out to the Anglican Church numerous times…they’ve never acknowledged their role,” Fiddler said. “They’ve never supported any of our efforts to give us funding, even, for community-based healing work that needs to happen, they’ve never apologized to any of the survivors, to any of our communities and that’s still very much a reality that we’re dealing with.”
The Anglican Church said it has contributed to “community-led healing projects” in several remote First Nations where Rowe worked over the course of several years and is now offering to do more.
“We acknowledge that our past actions have helped to create a legacy of brokenness in some First Nations communities, and we express our willingness, in spite of failings and false starts in the past, to renew our commitment to dialogue and discernment that will help us understand more deeply and act more effectively on our responsibilities,” Friday’s statement said.
Joshua Frogg, the uncle of one of Chantel Fox, one of the two girls who died this month in Wapekeka, is a Rowe victim, who told CBC News in 2015 that his struggle with alcohol was fuelled by the abuse.
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“There was mention of previous suicides in Wapekeka in the 1990s. I was there. Those were all my relatives. It touched me, just like it touched me today, to have buried my niece,” Frogg said at Thursday’s news conference in Ottawa.
Thompson, who was not available for an interview on Friday, said in his statement that the Anglican Church is now working on a national apology to victims of Ralph Rowe and their communities.
“Whatever our words, we will only have honoured that grief when we act, and we look to [Grand Chief Fiddler] and to others to help us direct our actions in ways that will help end the crisis in the communities he serves,” Thompson said.