New Delhi, June 04: Canada’s government has called on Pope Francis to issue a formal apology for the role the Catholic church played in Canada’s residential school system, days after the remains of 215 children were located at what was once the country’s largest such school. The remains of 215 children, some as young as three years old, were discovered in British Columbia, Canada, buried underneath on the site of a former residential school for indigenous children.
"This past weekend, with the help of a ground penetrating radar specialist, the stark truth of the preliminary findings came to light – the confirmation of the remains of 215 children who were students of the Kamloops Indian Residential School" said Chief Rosanne Casimir of the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc community. From the 19th century until the 1970s, more than 150,000 indigenous children were required to attend state-funded Christian schools as part of a program to assimilate them into Canadian society. They were forced to convert to Christianity and not allowed to speak their native languages. Many were beaten and verbally abused, and up to 6,000 are said to have died.
The Kamloops Indian Residential School, which was shut in 1978, was one of boarding schools established with the objective to obliterate First Nation culture. The school was run by the Catholic Church from 1890 to 1969. The institutions were notorious for the brutality it unleashed on the children. The school had a peak enrolment of 500 in the 1950s.
The federal government took over administration of the school from 1969 to 1978, using the building as a residence for students attending other Kamloops schools. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission determined that the residential schools were a system of "cultural genocide". It concluded that at least 4,100 students died while attending the schools, many of them due to abuse, negligence, disease, or accident.
ALSO READ- Catholic Priest, 23 others violate COVID protocol in Kerala; Arrested
The report highlighted in a great detail the horrific physical abuse, rape, malnutrition and other atrocities suffered by many of the 150,000 children who attended the schools, typically run by Christian churches on behalf of Ottawa from the 1840s to the 1990s. "The news that remains were found at the former Kamloops residential school breaks my heart - it is a painful reminder of that dark and shameful chapter of our country's history. I am thinking about everyone affected by this distressing news. We are here for you," Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted Friday.
Kamloops Indian Residential School operated from 1890 to 1969. The Indian Residential School Survivors Society (IRSSS) urged federal government and the Roman Catholic Church to take action following the discovery of the remains of 215 children buried on the Kamloops Indian Residential School grounds. In a media release, IRSSS co-chair Rick Alec, a member of the Ts'kw'aylaxw First Nation, called for action specifically from the Pope. "My Creator is asking their God why disciples would do this to us," he said. "The Pope needs to answer this question. There is no more denying it. Now there is physical evidence from these unmarked graves."