Trudeau calls on Catholic Church to take responsibility for residential schools

Henrietta Brewer
June 6, 2021

Two days earlier, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was deeply disappointed that the Vatican hadn't offered an apology, and called on the church to take responsibility.

"I follow with pain the news coming from Canada about the distressing discovery of the remains of 215 children, pupils of the Kamloops Indian Residential School, in the province of British Columbia", the pope told the crowd gathered in Saint Peter's Square Sunday for his weekly Angelus address.

The Kamloops school operated between 1890 and 1969, when the federal government took over operations from the Catholic Church and ran it as a day school until it closed in 1978. "The sad discovery further raises awareness of the pains and sufferings of the past".

He noted that when he met with Francis at the Vatican in 2017 he had asked him to "move forward on apologizing" and on making records available.

Run by the government and various Christian Churches, their stated aim was to assimilate indigenous children.

Trudeau urged Canadian Catholics to "reach out (to their) local parishes, to bishops and cardinals, and make it clear that we expect the Church to step up and take responsibility for its role in this and be there to help in the grieving and the healing, including with records".

"As we ring our bells, perhaps as many as 215 times in honour of each child, we do so with our advocacy and prayers for truth, justice, healing and reconciliation", said the Church of the Epiphany on its Facebook page.

Francis, who was elected pope in 2013, has already apologized for the Church's role in colonialism in the Americas but he has mostly chosen to make such apologies while visiting countries.

"These hard moments represent a strong call to distance ourselves from the colonial model and from today's ideological colonizing and to walk side by side in dialogue, in mutual respect and in recognizing rights and cultural values of all the daughters and sons of Canada", the pope said.

Chief Rosanne Casimir's statement came on Friday, one week after the remains of more than 215 children were discovered at a former residential school for Native students in British Columbia. Many were subjected to abuse, rape and malnutrition in what the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015 called "cultural genocide".

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