Pope Apologises for Drama of Boarding Schools for Indigenous Children in Canada
Pope Francis on Friday offered his “apologies” for the acts of violence perpetrated over decades at Church-run boarding schools for native children in Canada. He expressed his “shame” and “outrage”.
“I ask forgiveness from God” and “join my brethren the Canadian bishops to apologise to you,” the prelate said during an audience at the Vatican for delegations of Colored, Inuit and First Nations.
“The stories of the suffering, hardships, discriminatory treatment and various forms of abuse that several of you suffered, including in the boarding schools”, make the Pope “very sad”. Francis also denounced the “ideological colonisation” and “assimilation” that “suffered so many children”. “Your identity and culture were hurt, and many families were separated.”
The Pope expressed his wish to travel to Canada around Saint Anna, which is celebrated on July 26, to show the Native American peoples that he is “near” them. “I would like to be with you this year,” he said.
On Monday and Thursday, the Pope received three delegations of Indigenous Canadians: from the Métis National Council, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and First Nations. They expected to apologise for the drama of the boarding schools for indigenous children run by the Catholic and Anglican Churches.
Hundreds of anonymous graves of children have been discovered in recent months, and many survivors expected a strong gesture from the Pope. In September, the Catholic Church of Canada already issued an official apology to the indigenous peoples.
Between the late 1800s and the 1980s, approximately 150,000 indigenous children were forced to enter 130 boarding schools across the country, where they were cut off from their families, language and culture. Thousands of them never returned – authorities estimate their number to be between 4,000 and 6,000. In 2015, a national commission of inquiry called this system a “cultural genocide”.