Canadians Aren't Satisfied With The Pope's Apology; Here's Why

Ujjawal Mishra

Aug 01, 2022, 02:03 PM | Updated 02:03 PM IST

Pope Francis  with indigenous people.
Pope Francis with indigenous people.

There was mass disappointment in Canada over the non-mentioning of racial and sexual abuse in Pope Francis's apology for the Catholic Church's role in the exploitation and torture of Native American children.

Background: Pope Francis was in Canada to apologise for the church’s role in the residential school system.

  • In this system, generations of Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their homes and forced to attend church-run, government-funded boarding schools to assimilate them into Christian, Canadian society.

That wasn't all: According to the Canadian government, physical abuse and sexual abuse was rampant in the schools.

  • Students were beaten for speaking in their native languages. According to some estimates, over 6,000 children died at the schools.

  • A large number of unmarked graves have been discovered over the years.

  • More than 150,000 native children were taken away from their homes from the nineteenth century until as recently as the 1970s.

  • These children were placed in the schools in an effort to isolate them from their culture and family.

  • A large number of these children were sexually abused.

Pope Francis's apology: Francis apologised for “the wrongs done by so many Christians to Indigenous peoples” as well as “local Catholic institutions”.

  • Francis in his statement noted that the school system was promoted at that time by the Canadian government as part of their policy to promote assimilation. He noted that in this evil, local Catholic institutions had a part.

  • “It is our desire to renew the relationship between the Church and the indigenous peoples of Canada, a relationship marked both by a love that has borne outstanding fruit and, tragically, deep wounds that we are committed to understanding and healing,” the Pope said.

The dissatisfaction stems from the Pope's silence over the Catholic church’s institutional support of the assimilation policy and the papacy’s 15th-century religious justification for European colonial expansion to spread Christianity."

  • According to Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller, Francis "didn’t mention sexual abuse in his list of abuses endured by Indigenous children in the schools.

  • In addition, Miller noted that Francis spoke of “evil” committed by individual Christians “but not the Catholic Church as an institution”."

  • Many indigenous people are disappointed that Francis avoided mentioning sexual abuse.

  • Others felt that it didn’t acknowledge the role of the papacy's fifteenth-century justification of colonisation for the purpose of expanding Christianity.

The Canadian State has already apologised and expressed grief over the suppression of Native Americans.

  • The Conservative prime minister, Stephen Harper, issued a formal apology over the residential schools in Parliament in 2008.

  • He had called them a sad chapter in Canada's history. He accepted that the policy of forced assimilation indeed caused great harm to society.

  • The sitting Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that the atonement by the Pope was significant but only the first step in the long road of healing.

Reparations amounting to billions of dollars have been paid by the Canadian government as part of a settlement of a lawsuit involving the government, churches and the approximately 90,000 surviving students.

  • The Catholic church has paid over $50 million and has expressed an intention to pay $30 million more over the next five years.

The road ahead: Francis himself acknowledged that the wounds will take time to heal and that his visit and apology were merely first steps.

  • However, with the Catholic Church's acknowledgement of the evils of the past, native Americans can now get some closure.

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