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The Pope’s Historic Apology to Indigenous Peoples in Canada

Members of First Nations, Inuit and Métis delegations listen to Pope Francis' address at the Vatican, April 1, 2022.

Such a long wait. Friday 1er April, at the end of a week of meetings in Rome with First Nations, Inuit and Métis delegations, Pope Francis offered the apologies of the Catholic Church for the violence perpetrated in the residential school system for indigenous people , in force for more than a century in Canada. I want to tell you with all my heart: I’m so sorry.” declared, in Italian, the sovereign pontiff. I ask God for forgiveness (…) and I join my fellow Canadian bishops in asking your forgiveness. »

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In September 2021, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops had indeed paved the way, recognizing the role and responsibility of Catholic congregations in these residential schools for indigenous people, where, between 1831 and 1996, 150,000 indigenous children were taken from their homes. family in order to “kill the Indian in them. Deprived of their language, their culture, their family, they were victims of a cultural genocide, concluded the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015. Between 4,000 and 6,000 children never returned from these schools, while others suffered psychological, physical and sexual abuse.

I feel shame, pain and dishonor at the role that some Catholics, especially those with educational responsibilities, have played in all that has hurt you, in abuse, disrespect for your identity and of your culture that you have undergone”, launched François in a serious tone, after hearing survivors tell him about their tragic experience. Evoking the drama of uprooting », he castigated the “ideological colonization” and “the action of assimilation” of which “so many children have been victims”. “Unfortunately, this colonial attitude is still very widespread », he lamented.

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“Behind the cover-ups, behind the indifference of more than a hundred years, behind the lies, behind the lack of justice, this pope, Pope Francis, has decided to go all the way and has decided to speak words that First Nations, Inuit and Métis have been waiting for decades”, welcomed the head of the Inuit delegation, Natan Obed. The President of the Métis National Council, Cassidy Caron, also testified to her “deep emotion” and that of his delegation, explaining that after reading the translation of the pope’s speech and his words of apology, a ” Ancient “ had “burst into tears”. “I know how important it was to her”she added. “Today is the day we have been waiting for”underlined Chief Gerald Antoine, cacique of the First Nations delegation. “It’s a historic first step, but it’s only a first step. The next is for him to apologize to our families on their land. »

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