Canadian bishops have formally apologized for abuses in boarding schools for Aboriginal children that surfaced earlier this year. More than a thousand unidentified graves have been found since May in former boarding schools in British Columbia and Saskatchewan, which were primarily run by the Catholic Church and funded by the government.
“We, the Catholic Bishops of Canada, express our deepest regret and unequivocally apologize,” church leaders said in a statement, also saying they were “fully committed” to reconciliation. The bishops write that they acknowledge the “sufferings” and “grave abuses” inflicted on the victims.
Over the past 165 years, up to 1996, nearly 150,000 indigenous children in 139 schools were forcibly separated 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 was talking about “cultural genocide”, which earlier reported the killing of more than 4,000 people in schools.
The bishops said that “many religious groups and Catholic parishes participated in this system, which resulted in the suppression of indigenous languages, culture and spirituality, ignoring the rich history, traditions and wisdom of indigenous peoples.” “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.
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.
September 30th is Canada’s first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation to honor missing children and boarding school survivors.
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