Official: Indigenous Canadians need apology from Pope | www.WDIO.com

Official: Indigenous Canadians need apology from Pope

The Associated Press/CTV News
Updated: June 03, 2021 12:00 PM
Created: June 03, 2021 11:51 AM

Canada's Indigenous services minister said Wednesday that Pope Francis needs to issue a formal apology for the role the Catholic Church played in Canada’s residential school system, days after the remains of 215 children were located at what was once the country's largest such school.

“I think it is shameful that it hasn’t been done to date," Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said.

“There is a responsibility that lies squarely on the shoulders” on the Catholic bishops of Canada, he added.

Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett added that an apology by the Pope would help those who suffered heal.

“They want to hear the Pope apologize," she said.

Chief Rosanne Casimir of the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation in British Columbia has said the remains of 215 children were confirmed last month at the school in Kamloops, British Columbia, with the help of ground-penetrating radar. So far none has been excavated.

From the 19th century until the 1970s, more than 150,000 First Nations children were required to attend state-funded Christian schools as part of a program to assimilate them into Canadian society. They were forced to convert to Christianity and not allowed to speak their native languages. Many were beaten and verbally abused, and up to 6,000 are said to have died.

A papal apology was one of the 94 recommendations made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was set up as part of a government apology and settlement over the schools, and Trudeau personally asked the pope to consider such a gesture during a visit to the Vatican in 2017.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops didn't immediately respond to a message seeking comment for the latest call for a formal public apology by the Pope.

On Wednesday, however, the archbishop of Vancouver did issue an apology.

“I am writing to express my deep apology and profound condolences to the families and communities that have been devastated by this horrific news,” Archbishop Michael Miller tweeted. “The Church was unquestionably wrong in implementing a government colonialist policy which resulted in devastation for children, families and communities.”

The Kamloops Indian Residential School was Canada’s largest such facility and was operated by the Roman Catholic Church between 1890 and 1969 before the federal government took it over as a day school until 1978, when it was closed. Nearly three-quarters of the 130 schools were run by Catholic missionary congregations.

First Nations leaders are calling for an examination of other former residential schools.

Trudeau's ministers said the government will help preserve gravesites and search for potential unmarked burial grounds at other former residential schools. But Trudeau and his ministers have stressed need for Indigenous communities to decide for themselves how they want to proceed.

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The Associated Press/CTV News

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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