Pope to ask forgiveness for 1,000 dead native children in Canada

“Cultural genocide”: 1000 dead native children: Pope will ask for forgiveness in Canada

The Church of Canada once separated more than 100,000 indigenous children from their families and brutally tried to exorcise their culture. A number of children died as a result. Now Pope Francis will travel to Canada and do penance.

The Pope has embarked on a difficult and depressing journey. The head of the Catholic Church wants to face a horrific chapter in the church’s past in Canada. His primary purpose will be to seek forgiveness from indigenous peoples for decades of abuse, violence and degradation perpetrated by church officials on boarding school children.

As a penitent, he will travel to people to “contribute to the path of healing and reconciliation,” the 85-year-old Argentine said a week earlier in Rome.

More than 1000 dead children

The remains of more than 1,000 Aboriginal children have long been unearthed at former boarding schools. A shock for the liberal country. Background: The Church of Canada once separated more than 100,000 Indigenous children from their families and brutally tried to exorcise their culture.

There is official talk of “cultural genocide” – committed everywhere in Canada, which is so diverse today. The bone finds hit Canadians in the face with full force, forcing the country to come to terms with its treatment of Aboriginal people – and with the role of the Catholic Church.

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Consequences of the colonial trauma

Boarding schools in Canada – a country where many Catholics are not particularly religious – have existed for more than 100 years. They began with a first school of the Franciscan order in the 17th century. A system did not emerge until after the founding of the Canadian federation in 1867. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up by the government in 2008 counted 139 schools that Indigenous children were forced to attend. The last one closed in 1996 and an estimated 150,000 children were affected.

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The Pope’s visit is a great opportunity for University of Alberta historian Crystal Fraser: “The Pope’s visit to Canada is historic and an incredible moment in the ongoing need to seek truth and reconciliation in Canada,” say members of the Gwichyà Gwich. ‘i indigenous group said this was an opportunity to continue the work of healing indigenous peoples from the effects of the “colonial trauma”.

Students died from diseases, malnutrition, accidents

With the system, the Canadian settlers tried to incorporate the free indigenous peoples, to impose culture, language and capitalism on them. Brutal treatment and overcrowding in the institutions led to many deaths: the pupils died, among other things, from diseases, malnutrition or accidents. According to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the number of victims is in the thousands.

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The Catholic Church played a central role as sponsor of the institutions. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – who himself is Catholic and made the issue a top priority – demanded an apology from the Pope. Francis’ trip is therefore also considered a political success for the government in Ottawa, which is committed to reconciliation with the indigenous people.

The Pope’s itinerary

Francis will visit three places: Edmonton, Québec and Iqaluit in the North Atlantic. He will first meet indigenous people at a former boarding school and former pensioners. Unlike usual, he will not see Prime Minister Trudeau first.

The itinerary also includes several meetings with representatives of First Nations, Inuit and Métis. They had already been to the Vatican at the end of March. At that time the Pope was already asking for forgiveness.

The state of health remains critical

Observers will also pay close attention to how Francis survives the six days of his 37th trip abroad, with many transfers, nine speeches and two Masses in front of thousands of faithful. He still suffers from knee pain. On the advice of his doctors, he therefore canceled the trip to Africa that was planned for early July. He is often still in a wheelchair or only takes short walks with a cane.

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