Pope Francis has visited Canada and apologised for the “evil” of the church-run residential schools, asking for forgiveness from survivors of the system where tens of thousands of children were subjected to abuse, including punishment for speaking their mother tongue, The Guardian reported.
The pope visited the First Nation community of Maskwacis, Alberta, the site of one of the biggest of the schools, on Monday, attending an event attended by nearly 2,000 survivors. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Assembly of First Nations national chief RoseAnne Archibald attended the event at a First Nations community gathering place.
The pope said: “I am sorry. I ask for forgiveness, in particular, for the ways in which many members of the church and of religious communities cooperated, not least through their indifference, in projects of cultural destruction and forced assimilation promoted by the governments of that time, which culminated in the system of residential schools.”
He spoke of the system’s “colonising mentality”. “I humbly beg forgiveness for the evil committed by Christians against the Indigenous peoples,” he said. People listened silently, remembering children who never came home.
After he spoke, he was presented with a feather headdress, to cheers from the crowd.
At least 150,000 Indigenous children were forcibly taken from their families to the schools. Some died, and around half caught tuberculosis, according to the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre.
Chief Greg Desjarlais from the Frog Lake First Nation said, “I do know when people have apologised, we feel better, but our people have been traumatised. Some of them didn’t make it home. I hope the world will see why our people are so hurt.”