HomeNewsIndigenous from Canada demand that Church 'acknowledge responsibility' for abuses

Indigenous from Canada demand that Church ‘acknowledge responsibility’ for abuses

The delegates will bring to the papal audience "a depth of lived experience and insight on the legacy of residential schools and the impacts of colonialism"

An Indigenous delegation traveling to the Vatican for a meeting with Pope Francis will insist that the Church “acknowledge their responsibility” for abuses at church-run residential schools in Canada, advocates said Thursday.

The 32 Indigenous, Metis and Inuit delegates were invited to help the Catholic Church rebuild bridges with Canada’s Indigenous communities after more than 1,300 unmarked graves were discovered since last May at schools attended by Indigenous children as part of a government policy of forced assimilation.

The trip was originally scheduled for last December but was postponed due to Omicron fears. The audience with the pope is now scheduled for Monday.



“We are beginning a historical trip today,” said Gerald Antoine of the Dene tribes in the Northwest Territories, who attended one of these boarding schools.

“We have reiterated to the Church that they must be accountable and acknowledge their responsibility for the great harm caused by their direct role in the institution of assimilation and genocide that they ran,” he told a news conference.

According to a statement, the delegates will bring to the papal audience “a depth of lived experience and insight on the legacy of residential schools and the impacts of colonialism.”

Former residential school students and representatives of the three groups — Indigenous, Metis and Inuit — will meet one-on-one with the 85-year-old pontiff Monday and Thursday, and then as a group on Friday.

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“Our people have asked for a trip like this for many years,” Antoine commented.

“Our hope is that this visit,” he said, “will provide some measure of dignity and also respect for those survivors and the intergenerational survivors of the residential school.”

He said an invitation will be extended to Pope Francis to visit Canada to apologize for the Catholic Church’s role in the school abuses, calling this “an important step” in the healing process.

According to Canadian bishops, the pope has indicated a willingness to visit Canada.

Last September, the Catholic Church in Canada also apologised “unequivocally” to Canada’s indigenous peoples for a century of abuses at church-run residential schools.

Pope Francis himself has expressed his “pain” at the scandal but has not gone so far as to offer the apology that Indigenous leaders are calling for.

Some 150,000 Indigenous, Metis and Inuit children were enrolled from the late 1800s to the 1990s in 139 of the residential schools across Canada, spending months or years isolated from their families, language and culture.

Many were physically and sexually abused by headmasters and teachers, and thousands are believed to have died of disease, malnutrition or neglect.

A truth and reconciliation commission concluded in 2015 the failed government policy amounted to “cultural genocide.”

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