Pope Francis apologises to Indigenous People in Canada after mass graves of children were discovered in Christian schools

Days after meeting the Indigenous leaders of the First Nations, Inuit and Métis delegations, Pope Francis tendered an apology on Friday (April 1) for the “cultural genocide of indigenous children committed by the Catholic Church in Canadian residential schools”.

In a tweet, the Head of the worldwide Catholic church said, “I feel shame for the role that a number of Catholics with educational responsibilities have had in the abuse and lack of respect for the identity, culture and spiritual values of the Indigenous Peoples in Canada. “

He claimed that the actions of the Church in the residential schools, meant for indigenous children, were against the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Pope Francis further stated, “Listening to the voices of the brothers and sisters of the Indigenous Peoples of Canada, I heard the suffering, hardship, discrimination and various forms of abuse experienced, particularly in the residential schools. I bear these stories with great sorrow in my heart.”

The church-run schools

Around 150,000 Indigenous children in Canada were taken away from their families and forcefully sent to church-run schools where they endured abuse, both physical and sexual. These children were taken away from their communities and families to be “culturally assimilated”.

Following the Papal apology, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau applauded the survivors, for their continued advocacy in holding the Catholic Church accountable for its actions. Although Trudeau himself fought against compensation to indigenous children, he claimed that the apology was long due.

Indigenous children, mass graves, and the Church-backed residential school system

According to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), a large number of indigenous children that attended residential schools never made it back to their home communities. Some children ran away while others died at the schools. These students are now called the “Missing Children”.

The Missing Children Project documents and deaths and burial sites of such children who died while attending the residential schools. So far, the project has identified over 4,100 children who died while attending a residential school.

On May 27 last year, Rosanne Casimir, Chief of Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Kukpi7 confirmed that the remains of 215 children were found at the premises of Kamloops Indian Residential School.

In the official statement, Casimir said, “We had a knowing in our community that we were able to verify. To our knowledge, these missing children are undocumented deaths.” He further added that some of the students were as young as three years old when they died. “

About 751 graves were found in Saskatchewan on June 24, 2021. Two weeks later on July 12, the Penelakut tribe informed that it had discovered 160 unmarked graves in the Southern Gulf Islands in the British Columbia province of Canada.

The unmarked graves are a testimony of a painful past where the government and Christian churches inflicted atrocities against the native population. As anger and pain spread among the First Nation people, five churches built on Indigenous land were burnt down.

In a report published in 2015 after a six-year investigation into the now-defunct system, it was termed as “cultural genocide”. The report documented horrific details of abuse, rape, malnutrition and other atrocities suffered by the students who attended the school. As many as 150,000 were known to have attended the school system between the 1840s and 1990s.

Source : OpIndia

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