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Maskwacis — Pope Francis on Monday made good on a promise to apologise to Canada's native people on their home land for the Church's role in schools where indigenous children were abused, branding forced cultural assimilation “evil” and a “disastrous error”.
Speaking near the site of a former school, the pope apologised for Christian support of the “colonising mentality” of the times. He called for a “serious investigation” of the so-called residential schools and more assistance to help survivors and descendants heal.
“With shame and unambiguously, I humbly beg forgiveness for the evil committed by so many Christians against the indigenous peoples,” Francis told indigenous leaders from the Metis and Inuit people.
The 85-year-old pope is making the weeklong tour of Canada to fulfil a promise he made to indigenous delegations that visited him this year at the Vatican, where he made the initial apology.
“I ask forgiveness, in particular, for the ways in which many members of the church and of religious communities co-operated, not least through their indifference, in projects of cultural destruction and forced assimilation promoted by the governments of that time, which culminated in the system of residential schools,” he said.
Between 1881 and 1996 more than 150,000 indigenous children were separated from their families and brought to residential schools. Many children were starved, beaten and sexually abused in a system that Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission called “cultural genocide”.
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Published by Arena Holdings and distributed with the Financial Mail on the last Thursday of every month except December and January.