Canada’s Parliament overwhelming vote to request Pope Francis apologise for residential schools
It was a private member’s motion and it has passed almost unanimously in Canada’s House of Commons. It calls on the Pope to apologize for the Catholic Church’s role in the abuses against indigenous children in the residential school system.
Canada’s residential school system for over 100 years took indigenous children from their homes to be placed in residential schools often far from families, In those schools, run by various religious orders, the children were too often subject to physical, emotional and sexual abuse. That abuse has led to a legacy of difficulties for individuals, their descendants, and entire communities.
In recent years that abuse has become recognised as such, and those religious groups have apologised and paid varying degrees of compensation.
The majority of schools spread out across the country, almost three-quarters of them – were run by groups associated with the Catholic Church, which is the only religion not to have formally apologised. It has also not lived up to its financial commitments agreed to in a 2006 settlement.
Charlie Angus of the New Democratic party introduced a motion to have the Parliament send a formal request to the Pope for an apology hoping that would give enough weight to move Pope Francis to visit Canada and make a formal apology. This was one of the recommendation of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission to help residential school survivors in their healing process.
The vote on the motion was carried with a majority of 269 to 10.
The motion calls on the Catholic Church to respect both its moral obligations and the spirit of the 2006 Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.
It also calls on the Church to fulfill its commitment to raise $25 million for residential school survivor healing programs, and hand over all relevant documents related to the abuse the students suffered.
Bill Erasmus is the Northwest Territories regional chief Bill Erasmus, who holds the portfolio for residential schools for the Assembly of First Nations. He and several other aboriginal leaders say a visit to Canada to give a personal apology is necessary in the process of righting wrongs
“Part of the reason people want an apology is to first of all have the church admit they did harm,” Erasmus said. “Then you can forgive them, you can actually accept the apology. It makes it real and it helps the healing — it helps to sort things out, so people can move forward and move on with their lives.”
In light of requests for Pope Francis to issue a formal apology the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops said in March that while the Pope expressed regret for what the suffering of the children he felt he could not personally respond. The Conference later said it was their role not the Pope’s to work toward reconciliation.
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