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Canadian government says Pope’s apology is not enough for abuse of Indigenous children

The Canadian government clarified on Wednesday that Pope Francis’ apology Abuse in the country’s church-run residential schools did not go far for Indigenous peoples, suggesting that reconciliation over the horrific history was still a lot of work in progress.

The official government response came as Francis arrived in Quebec City for a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Governor General Mary Simon on the second leg of Francis at his Quebec residence, the hilltop Citadelle Fort. Canada week trip,

Criticisms of the government relate to Francis’ omission of some survivors and any reference to sexual abuse by indigenous children in schools, as well as his original reluctance to name the Catholic Church as the institution with responsibility.

Pope Francis in Canada
(LR) Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Pope Francis, and Canada’s Governor General Mary Simon sit for a photo at the Citadelle de Québec on July 27, 2022 in Quebec City, Canada.

Lars Hagberg/AFP/Getty Images


Francis has said he is on an “atonement pilgrimage” to atone for the church’s role in the residential school system, in which generations of Indigenous children were forcibly evicted from their homes and church-run, government-funded boarding schools. was forced to assimilate. them in Christian, Canadian society. The Canadian government has said that physical and sexual abuse is rampant in schools, with students being beaten up for speaking their native language.

Francis apologized on Monday for the “evil” of church workers working in schools and the “devastating” effect of the school system on Indigenous families. In a speech before government officials on Wednesday, Francis issued a fresh apology and described the school system as “deplorable.”

Francis noted that the school system was “promoted by government officials at the time” as part of a policy of assimilation and suffrage. But responding to the criticism, he said that “local Catholic institutions had a part” in implementing that policy.

Indigenous peoples have long demanded that the Pope bear responsibility not only for abuses committed by individual Catholic clergy and religious orders, but for the institutional support of the Catholic Church’s assimilation policy and European colonial expansion for the spread of Christianity. To the 15th-century Religious Justification of the Pope.

More than 150,000 Native children in Canada were taken from their homes from the 19th century to the 1970s and placed in schools in an attempt to isolate them from the influence of their families and culture.

Trudeau, a Catholic whose father, Pierre Trudeau, was prime minister while the last residential school was running, insisted that the Catholic Church as an institution was to blame and that more needed to be done for atonement.

Speaking before Francis, he said that Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission called for an apology from the Pope on Canadian soil in 2015, but Francis’ visit “would not have been possible without the courage and perseverance of First Nation survivors”. “, the Inuit and Métis who traveled to the Vatican last spring to file their case for apology.

Trudeau said, “The Roman Catholic Church as an institution is sorry for the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical and sexual abuse that indigenous children faced in church-run residential schools.”

The Government of Canada has apologized for its role in the school’s legacy. Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a formal apology on residential schools in Parliament in 2008, describing them as a sad chapter in Canadian history and saying that the policy of forced assimilation had done much harm.

As part of the settlement of the lawsuit involving the government, churches and approximately 90,000 surviving students, Canada paid compensation that was billions of dollars being transferred to indigenous communities. The Catholic Church has paid more than $50 million for its share and intends to add another $30 million over the next five years.

Trudeau said the church needed to do more, and while Francis’ visit had “a huge impact” on the survivors, it was a first step.

Before Francis arrived in Quebec City, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Mark Miller said the “gaps” in Francis’ apology could not be ignored.

Echoing criticism from some school survivors, Miller said Francis did not mention sexual abuse in his list of abuses tolerated by Indigenous children in schools. Francis listed instead physical, verbal, psychological and spiritual abuse on Monday. In addition, Miller noted that Francis on Monday spoke of the “evil” committed by individual Christians “but not the Catholic Church as an institution.”

Phil Fontaine, a survivor of sexual abuse in schools and former national head of the First Nations Assembly, said on Wednesday that the additional reference to “local Catholic institutions” went beyond Francis’ original apology and was important and the closest he was to apologizing. For the whole church in Canada.

“This reflects the reality that the Catholic Church in Canada is not an institution. It is made up of approximately 73 different legal institutions, which were all defendants in the lawsuit,” Fontaine said in a statement.

Francis’ visit has stirred mixed feelings among survivors and their relatives, as well as indigenous leaders and community members. Some have welcomed their apology as genuine and helpful in helping them heal. Others have said it was only the first step in a long process of reconciliation. Still, others have said that it did not go far enough in assuming responsibility for centuries of institutional wrongs.

Francis himself has acknowledged that the wounds will take time to heal and that his visit and apology were the first steps. On Wednesday he committed himself and the local Canadian Church to “according to truth and justice, with all Canadians moving forward on a fraternal and patient journey, working for healing and reconciliation, and continually inspired by hope.”

“It is our desire to renew the relationship between the Church and the Indigenous people of Canada, a relationship marked by a love that has produced excellent fruit and, sadly, deep wounds that we are committed to understanding and healing.” ,” They said.

But he did not list any specific work that the Holy See was prepared to do.

Trudeau also said that this journey is just the beginning and reconciliation is everyone’s duty. “It is our responsibility not to see our differences as an obstacle but as an opportunity to learn, understand each other better, and take action.”

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