Pope faces indigenous Canadians’ anger over refusal to apologize for past abuse

The Guardian

March 30, 2018

By Leyland Cecco

Canada bishops’ group said Francis would not offer personal apology for residential school system that abused generations of children

Survivors of Canada’s residential schools have expressed dismay after Pope Francis for a system that abused thousands of indigenous children for generations.

The schools, many of which were run by missionaries, were used to convert indigenous children to Christianity through a governmental policy of “aggressive assimilation”. More than 150,000 children passed through around 80 schools across the country until the last one closed in 1996.

The Canadian government formally apologized for the program 10 years ago. In 2014, Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommended a papal apology, which the prime minister, Justin Trudeau, personally lobbied for when he visited the Vatican last year.

While he has apologized for the “grave sins” of colonialism in South America, in a letter released Tuesday by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, the president of the organization said Pope Francis would not issue a personal apology.

Stephen Kakfwi, the former premier of the Northwest Territories, attended a number of residential schools in the Canadian Arctic. He argued that survivors of the schools were not calling for a personal apology from the pontiff, but an institutional response from the Catholic church.

“We asked as for an apology from the pope, the head of the Catholic faith, for the millions of people who are Catholics around the world,” said Kakfwi, who helped arrange visits by Pope John Paul II to the Arctic.

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