Pope expresses “will” to visit Canada for indigenous reconciliation
ROME – The Vatican announced on Wednesday that Pope Francis had “indicated his willingness” to visit Canada, after the country’s indigenous leaders repeatedly demanded that he apologize for the church’s role in the boarding schools recognized as responsible for widespread abuse.
In a brief statement, the Vatican said the bishops of Canada had invited Francis “in the context of the long-standing pastoral process of reconciliation with indigenous peoples” and that he had expressed “his willingness to surrender” on a date. yet to be determined.
The Vatican statement, and the one released by Canadian bishops, did not say whether the Pope intended to apologize, although some Indigenous leaders expressed hope he will.
A National Truth and Reconciliation Commission determined in 2015 that residential schools, the system of compulsory boarding schools for Indigenous children that were primarily run by Catholic organizations, was a form of “cultural genocide.” Physical and sexual abuse was rife in schools, the commission found, and called on the Pope to apologize.
But the Pope has repeatedly rejected such demands, including those from Indigenous leaders and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who made a direct appeal at a meeting at the Vatican.
David Chartrand, president of the Manitoba Métis Federation, said he was confident the Pope’s visit would finally lead to an apology.
“It’s a good sign,” he said. “The number 1 priority for us is to bring it to Canada.
RoseAnne Archibald, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said on twitter that she would welcome the Pope “when he arrives in Canada to present a long overdue apology.”
Ms Archibald said she would also ask Francis to renounce and “officially revoke” the papal doctrine of discovery of 1493, which proclaims that any land not inhabited by Christians could be “discovered”, claimed and exploited by nations. led by Christians.
Not all indigenous leaders were convinced that the Vatican statement necessarily meant an apology would follow.
“I’m not assuming the trip to Canada is tied to an apology,” said Natan Obed, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. “Until they make it clear what’s going on, I guess it won’t.”
Marc Miller, Canada’s new Minister of Indigenous Relations, said an apology from the Pope would be an important part of any reconciliation.
“I think for indigenous peoples this full recognition of the damage done is something that has long been expected from the Holy Father himself,” Miller said.
Mr Obed said he and other Indigenous leaders also wanted the Pope to ensure the Catholic Church in Canada finally fulfills its obligations under a 2006 settlement in a class action lawsuit filed. by former residential school students.
Indigenous children have gone missing in Canada
The remains of what are believed to be Indigenous children have been found at the sites of former residential schools in Canada. Here’s what you need to know:
- Background: Around 1883, Aboriginal children in many parts of Canada were forced to attend residential schools as part of a program of forced assimilation. Most of these schools were run by churches and all prohibited the use of indigenous languages and cultural practices, often through violence. Illnesses, as well as sexual, physical and emotional abuse were widespread. An estimated 150,000 children passed through schools between their opening and closing in 1996.
- Missing children: A National Truth and Reconciliation Commission, set up as part of the government’s apology and regulation regarding schools, found that at least 4,100 students died while attending them, much from mistreatment or neglect, others from illness or accident. In many cases, families never learned of the fate of their offspring, now known as “missing children”.
- Discoveries : In May, members of the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation found 215 bodies at the Kamloops school – which was operated by the Roman Catholic Church until 1969 – after using ground penetrating radar. In June, an Indigenous group said the remains of 751 people, mostly children, were found in anonymous graves at the site of a former residential school in Saskatchewan.
- Cultural genocide: In a 2015 report, the commission concluded that the system was a form of “cultural genocide”. Murray Sinclair, a former judge and senator who headed the commission, recently said he now believed the number of missing children was “well over 10,000”.
- Apologies and next steps: The commission asked for an apology from the Pope for the role of the Roman Catholic Church. Pope Francis stopped by before one, but the Archbishop of Vancouver apologized on behalf of his archdiocese. Canada has officially apologized and offered financial and other support for the research, but Indigenous leaders believe the government still has a long way to go.
While Protestant churches that operated some of the schools fulfilled their obligations, Catholic groups fulfilled only a small fraction of what they had agreed to as part of the settlement: the church said it would collect 25 million Canadian dollars for the settlement, but the effort only yielded about 4 million dollars. A separate cash payment of $ 29 million was supposed to be paid from church reserves, but little was distributed.
The settlement also provided for $ 25 million in “in-kind” services. The church told a court in 2015 that it had provided such services, although it offered little documentation.
Court records from 2015 showed that the money raised by religious groups, as well as the money set aside for the settlement, was largely for loans, lawyers, and fees associated with fundraising.
Yet a Saskatchewan court relieved the church of its financial responsibilities to former residential school students that year.
The Vatican announcement comes months after the remains of hundreds of Indigenous children were discovered at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia.
Similar findings have since been made elsewhere, shocking many Canadians and once again shining the spotlight on abuses by Catholic clergy in schools.
In December, Francis is due to meet with representatives of three Indigenous groups in Canada: First Nations, Métis and Inuit. These sessions will take place over four days in the Vatican.