Today the Canadian Parliament will begin debate on whether to ask Pope Francis to issue a formal apology for the role of the Catholic Church in the tragic residential school system
That system was an over 100 year bitterly dark stain on Canadian history.
From the 1800’s until the 1990’s some 150 thousand aboriginal children were taken from their homes and placed into residential schools often far away from family. The idea was to teach them so they could better integrate into “modern” society and away from indigenous language and culture
The schools, spread out across the country, were funded by the federal government but run by religious orders, the majority of schools having been run under the auspices of the Catholic Church..
The children would later recount systemic abuse; emotional, physical, and sexual. Many of the children died under mysterious circumstances.
Federal New Democratic Party Member of Parliament, Charlie Angus, has tabled a motion in the House of Commons for the government to send a request that the Pope issue a formal apology to Canada’s indigenous peoples for their suffering at the hands of the church members.Listen
Charlie Angus’ federal riding in northern Ontario includes Fort Albany near James Bay. That was the site of Ste Anne’s School one of the larger residential schools.
He initiated the parliamentary motion after the Pope had indicated previously he could not personally issue an apology. While he has expressed “sorrow” for injustices, he also noted that Pope Benedict XVI had earlier also expressed sorrow.
However, a formal apology from the highest level of the Catholic church is one of the recommendations of a highly emotional inquiry into the residential school system known as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
That commission heard, as has MP Charlie Angus, that many survivors of the schools or their descendants, indicated that such and apology would help them heal.
Angus’ hope is that the weight of the Canadian government and a formal request might motivate a papal apology.
The debate in Canada’s Parliament will begin this morning (Thursday, Apr 26) , and a vote will be held next Tuesday. Angus is hopeful that the vote to send a Parliamentary request for a Papal apology, will be unanimous.
- Timmins Daily Press: R Grech: Angus apology motion
- Huff Post: C Angus (MP); Dec 16/16: the missing boys of Ste Anne’s
- CBC: May 16/08: history of residential schools
- CBC: C Walker: Feb 18/14: Catholic church withholds money from victims
- Canadian Press (via G&M): Mar 12/18: fight over residential school documents
- CBC: J Barrera: Apr 25/18: link between Catholic hierarchy and schools
- CBC: J Barrera: Dec2/17: Ottawa fought compensation
- Shinguak Project: 2009: Detailed history Ste Anne’s and residential school system
- CBC: Mar 28/18: Pope’s refusal “slap in the face”