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Canadian commission calls for papal visit, apology to Native Americans

June 03, 2015

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, which was established in 2008 to examine the treatment of Native Americans in religious residential schools, has issued its final report.

From 1884 to 1948, Canadian law compelled Native Americans to send their children away from home to residential schools, most of which were Catholic or Anglican institutions. The last residential school closed in 1996, and in 2009, Pope Benedict apologized for “the deplorable conduct of some members of the Church.”

In one of its recommendations, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission called upon Pope Francis to visit Canada within a year to offer an apology.

“We call upon the Pope to issue an apology to Survivors, their families, and communities for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of First Nations, Inuit, and Metis children in Catholic-run residential schools,” the commission stated in its 58th of 94 recommendations. “We call for that apology to be similar to the 2010 apology issued to Irish victims of abuse and to occur within one year of the issuing of this Report and to be delivered by the Pope in Canada.”

Stating that it was hard for the commission to understand the Church’s structure, Archbishop Gerard Pettipas of Grouard-McLennan, Alberta, said that “it’s for the Church in Canada to be involved in further gestures, not for the Holy Father.”

The prelate, according to the Catholic Register, also disputed the commission’s findings on the residential schools and “cultural genocide,” since teachers saw themselves as “trying to teach these young people to be able to enter into the mainstream of society and to do that successfully.”

“So I find it hard to judge them and say, you individuals, you tried to kill the Indian in the child,” he added. “They wouldn’t have seen that. From today’s insight, we might say that’s what happened, but that wasn’t the intent.”

“The truth is many children died there; many children were physically and sexually abused either by the staff or people that were employed there, and in effect the consequences were cultural devastation to the people,” said Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa.

“Harm was done,” he added. “Many of the problems native people face now began as a result of this. It’s intergenerational now and needs healing and peace.”


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  • Posted by: james-w-anderson8230 - Jun. 03, 2015 11:04 PM ET USA

    Just another example of judging yesterday's actions by today's standards. Where is the call for the Canadian Government to apologise for passing the laws that caused this alleged abuse?