Canada’s Catholic bishops formally apologized to the country’s indigenous peoples after more than 1,000 graves were discovered in recent months near former church-run boarding schools.
“We, the Catholic bishops of Canada, express our deep regret and offer an unequivocal apology,” they said in a statement. They also recognized “the suffering experienced in the boarding schools.” In addition, they pointed to the “serious abuses committed by some members” of the Catholic community.
“Many religious communities and Catholic dioceses have served in this system that has led to the suppression of indigenous languages, culture and spirituality, without respecting the rich history, traditions and wisdom of indigenous peoples,” they said. The declaration also recognizes the “historical and current trauma, as well as the legacy of suffering and challenges that continue to this day for indigenous peoples.”
This summer, more than 1,000 unmarked graves were found near former Catholic boarding schools for indigenous children. Many indigenous groups have repeatedly asked for an apology from the Pope.
Refusal of the Pope
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau regretted the refusal of the Pope and the Catholic Church to acknowledge their “responsibility” and their “part of the blame” in the management of the internees. Trudeau has made reconciliation with indigenous peoples one of his priorities.
The statement with the apology was issued after the annual plenary meeting of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. The text also reported that Pope Francis will receive a delegation of Canadian indigenous people in December.
National Truth and Reconciliation Day
The apology comes less than a week before the first National Truth and Reconciliation Day for missing children and survivors of internees. Its commemoration is scheduled for September 30. Canada forcibly recruited some 150,000 children in 139 boarding schools across the country, separating them from their families, their language, and their culture.