Canada's Trudeau blasts Catholic Church for ignoring role in indigenous schools

Trudeau

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday the Catholic Church must take responsibility for its role in running numerous schools.

Judy Sackaney and her grandson Creedence, 10, stand in front of an honor staff with tobacco ties at the Centennial Flame after participating in a Pipe Ceremony to honor the 215 children whose remains were found at the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School at Tk'emlups te Secwépemc First Nation in Kamloops, British Columbia.

From 1893 to 1969, a Catholic congregation called the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate ran the Kamloops school, which was once Canada's largest.

Some 150,000 Indian, Inuit and Metis youngsters in total were enrolled in 139 of these residential schools, where students were physically and sexually abused by headmasters and teachers who stripped them of their culture and language.

Pope Francis met today with two Canadian Cardinals as pressure mounts for the Catholic Church to take action and accept responsibility for the residential school system that targeted Indigenous children for decades.

The Prime Minister noted that he had "directly asked" Pope Francis to make the records available during a previous visit to the Vatican but that there was still "resistance".

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Speaking to pilgrims and tourists in St. Peter's Square, he stopped short, however, of the direct apology that many Canadians had demanded from the Catholic Church for its role in the residential schools, which operated between 1831 and 1996 and were run by a number of Christian denominations on behalf of the government.

The school was run by the Catholic Church between the late 1800s and the 1960s.

"May the political and religious authorities continue to collaborate with determination to shed light on this sad affair and to commit to a path of healing", Francis added.

Francis' comments spoke of healing but not of apology.

The gruesome discovery was made at a former boarding school, where Canadian authorities forcibly took indigenous children to assimilate them into "European cultural practices" since the 19th century.

He recalled a May 2017 trip to the Vatican during which he sought a formal apology from Pope Francis for abuses of students, as well as access to church records to help account for more than 4,100 students believed to have died from disease or malnutrition.

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