Pope Francis says the abuses suffered by Indigenous peoples while forced to attend residential schools amounted to genocide.
The pontiff made the comment Friday to reporters on his return flight from Iqaluit to Rome after his six-day tour of Canada.
Francis apologized several times during the week for the role played by the Roman Catholic Church in the institutions. He asked for forgiveness for the abuses committed by some members of the church as well as the cultural destruction and forced assimilation.
Some locals said they were disappointed that during his visit the pope did not name the crimes and abuses the students and survivors faced. They also criticized him for not using the term genocide.
When asked if he would use the word genocide and accept that members of the church participated in the genocide, Francis said yes.
The pope said he didn’t think to use the word genocide on his trip, calling it a technical term.
“I asked forgiveness for what was done, which was genocide, and I condemned that,” he said in Spanish through a translator.
Francis said that instead of using the word genocide, he described attempts to destroy indigenous peoples through assimilation and colonization.
“Abducting children, changing the culture, their mindset, their traditions – changing a race, an entire culture…yes I use (use) the word genocide.”
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission called residential schools a form of cultural genocide when it released its final report in 2015. But since then, a number of Indigenous groups have changed that to say it was a genocide.
Leah Gazan, an NDP MP from Manitoba, tabled a motion in the House of Commons last year calling on the federal government to recognize what happened in the residential schools as genocide, but she did not get the vote. unanimous consent.
The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls concluded in its final report that violence against women and girls is a form of genocide. The effects of residential schools were the subject of many testimonies from families and survivors.
Neglect and physical and sexual abuse were rampant in schools, and the Catholic Church ran 60% of schools.
Throughout his visit to Canada, Francis expressed his sadness, outrage and shame.
“In the face of this deplorable evil, the Church kneels before God and asks his forgiveness for the evil committed by so many Christians against the indigenous peoples,” he told a group of residential school survivors and their families on Monday. families reunited in Maskwacis, Alberta. .
Throughout his stops in Alberta, Quebec, and Nunavut, the Pope received messages urging him to rescind the Doctrine of Discovery, papal bulls, or official statements crafted to justify the colonization of the Americas. The doctrine was tied to the thought that settled lands were empty, when in fact they were home to indigenous peoples.
Some Indigenous scholars argue that the doctrine underlies all subsequent policies.
Indigenous leaders have been calling for its cancellation for decades, and the messages intensified before and during the pope’s visit.
Many said they were disappointed it wasn’t part of the pope’s apology.
He was asked on the plane on Friday if he thought it was a missed opportunity to take concrete action towards reconciliation.
“Colonization is wrong. It’s unfair and we still use it today. Maybe with silk and gloves, but we use it anyway,” he said. said.
“Let us be aware that colonization is not over. The same colonization is there today too.”
Vatican officials said a statement on that was forthcoming.
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, which helped organize the papal trip, said in a statement that the bishops plan to work with the Vatican to address the issue.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on July 30, 2022.
If you are a former residential school survivor in distress, or if you have been impacted by the residential school system and need help, you can contact the 24 hour residential school crisis line: 1-866- 925-4419
Additional mental health support and resources for Indigenous people are available here.
ctvnews Canada news