EDITORIAL – Return of $500,000 donation raises an important question

Tony Williams of Verna J. Kirkness Education Foundation at news conference. (Image: Verna J. Kirkness Education Foundation)

An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

THE ‘SINS OF THE FATHER’ is a saying derived from Biblical references commonly understood as meaning the sins of one generation are passed on to those who come after.

To be clear, it doesn’t mean that future generations should be punished for the sins of their ancestors, only that those sins have consequences for those who come later.

It comes to mind in connection with a decision by the Alberta-based Verna J. Kirkness Education Foundation to return a $500,000 endowment donation to the Sisters of St. Ann.

The foundation addresses the under-representation of First Nations, Metis and Inuit students at Canadian universities and provides scholarships to indigenous students. Sisters of St. Ann is a Catholic order that was involved in running residential schools.

In returning the donation and severing ties with the Sisters, the foundation said it learned of their involvement in the schools when results of ground-penetrating radar tests at the Kamloops school were announced a year ago.

“… the SSA have not taken responsibility or apologized for their role in Residential Schools and the harm done to Indigenous children and their families,” the statement said.

For its part, the SSA says it’s saddened by the decision, that it feels “profound sorrow” for the legacy of residential schools and wants to help in healing and reconciliation. The Sisters had previously handed over residential school records to the B.C. museum as part of those efforts. It co-operated on records with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and is also co-operating with Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc on records from the KIRS.

Obviously, the foundation didn’t come to what it feels is a principled decision easily but it clearly doesn’t think the SSA have gone far enough, and this raises an important question: what criteria must be met by today’s generation to atone for the actions of its ancestors? What is the bar?

A simple question, but an important one that requires clear definition.

I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.

Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at

About Mel Rothenburger (9483 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

1 Comment on EDITORIAL – Return of $500,000 donation raises an important question

  1. A quote by Winston Churchill. ” A nation that forgets its past, has no future. Understand that learning about your history is not about making one person or group feel guilty. You cannot be guilty of an action that took place before you were born”.

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