Canadian Catholic Bishops Officially Apologize for Residential School Abuses
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops acknowledges, apologizes and offers a listening ear for indigenous communities, regretting school abuses.
After refusing to come to acknowledgment and accountability for years, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops released a statement Friday officially apologizing for their role in abusing children at Canada's racist residential schools.
The Canadian Conference, officially recognized by both the Catholic Church and the Canadian government, apologized on the behalf of all entities who were directly involved in the crimes.
"We acknowledge the grave abuses that were committed by some members of our Catholic community; physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, cultural, and sexual," the statement said. "We also sorrowfully acknowledge the historical and ongoing trauma and the legacy of suffering and challenges faced by Indigenous Peoples that continue to this day."
Furthermore, the Conference also proposed to fundraise for "initiatives" by the indigenous communities in Canada, and opt for reconciliation, offering a listening ear: "We invite the Indigenous Peoples to journey with us into a new era of reconciliation, helping us in each of our dioceses across the country to prioritize initiatives of healing, to listen to the experience of Indigenous Peoples, especially to the survivors of Indian Residential Schools, and to educate our clergy, consecrated men and women, and lay faithful, on Indigenous cultures and spirituality."
However, the pope and the Catholic Church refused to apologize for the church's hand in abuses. On the other side, Anglican, Presbyterian and United churches admitted accountability, in addition to the Canadian government earlier this year.
From 1831 till 1996, Canada's residential school system, built on racism and segregation of indigenous peoples, snatched 150,000 children from their families, forced them into Christianity, malnourished them, and physically and sexually abused them.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, in 2015, labeled the almost-century long legacy a "cultural genocide." Children were beaten for speaking their native language, which violently compelled the Natives into cultural isolation, then genocide. The TRC provides directly or indirectly affected people a safe space to narrate their experiences.
Apologies and acknowledgment have been demanded for years; international pressure shot up after hundreds of unmarked graves near residential schools were found. Some 215 unmarked graves were found at Kamloops in May, and over 750 unmarked graves were found at Cowessess First Nation later in June.
Investigations have been carried out regarding Fort Alexander Residential School in Manitoba for allegations of sexual abuse of indigenous children.
Children were often caught trying to escape from the school, and reports in 1928 claim 2 boys drowned trying to escape by boat. Survivors testify that numerous children went missing or died while attending the school.
In total, 1300 unmarked graves have been discovered on the grounds of former residential schools for indigenous children, prompting an international outcry over Canada's past colonial practices.