Many thousands of Indigenous children died and even more were abused in residential schools run by the Catholic Church in Canada between 1881 and 1996. Now the Pope apologizes.
– I humbly ask forgiveness for the wrongs that so many Christians have done to Indigenous peoples, Pope Francis told a group of Canadian Indigenous people on Monday, according to New York Times.
He traveled to Canada on Sunday to seek forgiveness for the abuses committed by the Catholic Church against Canada’s indigenous people.
– It is important to remember how devastating the policy of assimilation, which also contained the boarding school system, was for the indigenous peoples.
The Catholic Church functioned 66 boarding schools on behalf of the Canadian government from the late 1800s to the 1990s, with the goal of assimilating Indigenous children into Christian culture. This meant taking away children’s knowledge of Canadian Aboriginal culture and language. The Indian Act of 1876 permitted the establishment of these schools in Canada, and the last schools were closed in 1996.
The pope reportedly said he was “deeply sorry” and thanked the natives for telling him about the abuses that had taken place.
Several thousand dead
The trip to Canada was planned after representatives of indigenous peoples went to the Vatican to ask youapologies from the Catholic Church this spring.
In 2021, the remains of 215 children were found outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in Canada. It was one of the largest boarding schools, with over 500 students.
A commission set up by the Canadian government, which was to investigate the assimilation carried out by the Canadian authorities against the indigenous population, concluded in 2015 that several thousand children had died in schools. Deaths were reportedly caused by disease, malnutrition, accidents, fires and abuse. The head of the commission, Murray Sinclair, estimated that nearly 10,000 children never returned home, according to New York Times.
About 150,000 Indigenous children were forced to attend boarding school until the 1970s, writes Reuters.
“Journey of Abandonment”
The journey is a so-called pilgrimage for forgiveness, where the pope moves to apologize. He will visit several Aboriginal peoples in Canada, in the regions of Alberta, Quebec and Nunavut. On Monday, he began his journey at the Ermineskin Indian Residential School in Alberta, where he gave a speech asking for forgiveness.
Pope Francis will be in Canada until Friday. according to Reuters.
“Hardcore coffee specialist. Unable to type with boxing gloves on. Devoted internetaholic.”