“We, the Catholic Bishops of Canada, express our deepest remorse and categorical apologies,” church leaders said in a statement, also saying they were “fully committed” to reconciliation. The bishops write that they acknowledge the “suffering” and “grave abuse” inflicted on the victims.
Over the past 165 years, up to 1996, schools forcibly separated some 150,000 indigenous children from their families. There they had to adapt to the culture of the white population of Canada, while being cut off from their families, language and culture. They were victims of malnutrition, physical and sexual abuse. A national commission of inquiry, speaking of “cultural genocide”, previously reported that more than 4,000 were killed in schools.
The historical and continuous shock
“Many Catholic religious groups and parishes participated in this system, which resulted in the suppression of indigenous languages, culture and spirituality, ignoring the rich history, traditions and wisdom of the indigenous peoples,” the bishops said. “We also sadly recognize the historical and continuing trauma and legacy of suffering and challenges indigenous peoples face to this day.”
The Catholic Church has previously received heavy criticism in Canada, because in the eyes of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, among others, the Vatican refuses to take responsibility for abuses in boarding schools. Pope Francis has previously expressed his “disgust” with the shocking discoveries, but indigenous leaders also want to hear what’s wrong with his mouth. A meeting between them and the Pope is scheduled for December at the Vatican.
Identification of unidentified graves
The Canadian bishops also agree in their letter to provide documents and archives that may assist in the identification of victims found in unidentified graves in boarding schools. Meanwhile, the search for more potential graves continues, including via soil radar technology.
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