Updated: June 04, 2021 05:25 PM
Created: June 04, 2021 05:20 PM
Calls are growing for Pope Francis to apologize for church's role in Canada's boarding school system following the discovery of the remains of hundreds of Indigenous children.
On Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he's “deeply disappointed” the Roman Catholic Church hasn't offered a formal apology and made amends for the role it played in the former system of Indigenous boarding schools, which were funded by the government and run by the church. The prime minister is calling on the Catholic Church to “step up” and take responsibility for its part in the schools.
EARLIER COVERAGE: Official says Indigenous Canadians need apology from pope
At least 4,100 children died at the schools between the 19th century and the 1970s, according to a Truth and Reconciliation Commission report. The report detailed harsh mistreatment of Indigenous children at the schools, which more than 150,000 children were forced to attend as an effort to assimilate them into Canadian society.
The Tk'emlúps te Sewépemc First Nation in British Columbia announced last week that it had used the services of a ground-penetrating radar specialist to reveal the remains of 215 children long believed missing from a school, some as young as three years old. The site had once been the country's largest such school.
"This is not a mass grave, but rather unmarked burial sites that are, to our knowledge, also undocumented," Rosanne Casimir, Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc Chief, explained Friday.
The band's announcement of the discovery has touched off countrywide grief, anger about the children's treatment at the schools and calls for more searches at other such institutions.
Casimir says they want a public apology from the Catholic Church.
"In the end, what we do want we do want an apology, a public apology, not just for us, but for the world who also shared in those suffrages. Holding the Catholic Church to account, there has never been an apology from the Roman Catholics," she said.
Casimir has said the band plans to release a report with preliminary findings about the discovery in mid-June.
Trudeau's government has made $27 million in previously announced funding available to conduct further searches of possible residential school burial sites.
Trudeau told a news conference in Ottawa Friday that the families and the communities of the Indigenous children who were victims of the residential schools system should be at the center of Canada's path forward.
This article was compiled with information from Associated Press reports.
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