Warning: The following story contains details of residential schools that may be disturbing. Canada’s Indigenous Residential School Survivors and Family Crisis Line is available 24 hours a day at 1-866-925-4419.
Canada – Less than a week ago, Pope Francis He apologized for the “deplorable” abuses that members of the Roman Catholic Church committed in the residential schools that indigenous children were forced to attend across Canada for decades.
The apology was historic and welcomed by many, but survivors of forced assimilation institutions and other indigenous leaders say tangible action is needed to truly deal with the role of the Catholic Church in what happened.
“There is still a lot of work [to be done]said Gerald Antoine, who led a delegation from the Assembly of First Nations that traveled to Rome at the end of last month to meet with the Pope to to converse the effect of residential schools and demand an apology.
Antoine said that the church must admit its role in the genocide that was committed as a result of the Doctrine of Discovery, a concept (PDF) that originated in the 15th century Papal Bulls and was used to justify the colonial dispossession of sovereign indigenous nations.
“In respect to the spirit of this trip for the forgiveness requested [from the church]It will require the full recognition and rescission of the seed that resulted in the coordinated efforts of the state, the church and the police services…in the implementation of these destructive and vicious processes,” Antoine said.
‘Pain and shame’
For decades, indigenous leaders and survivors of residential schools have demanded an apology from the Catholic Church, which ran more than 60 percent of residential schools in Canada.
The federally funded institutions it operated from the late 1800s to 1997 with the goal of forcibly assimilating indigenous children into mainstream European culture, a goal a federal commission of inquiry called “cultural genocide.” More than 150,000 indigenous children from all over the country attended schools and experienced physical, sexual, emotional, verbal, and spiritual abuse. Thousands died while attending.
“I feel sorrow and shame for the role that various Catholics, particularly those with educational responsibilities, have had in all these things that hurt you, the abuses you suffered and the lack of respect for your identity, your culture and even your spiritual values. the pope told indigenous delegates in Rome on April 1.
“For the deplorable behavior of these members of the Catholic Church, I ask God for forgiveness and I want to tell them with all my heart that I am very sorry. And I join my brothers, Canadian bishops, in asking for their forgiveness.”
But Niigaan Sinclair, a professor of Indigenous Studies at the University of Manitoba, called the pope’s apology an “empty gesture” with no follow-up action, including payment of the tens of millions he owes under the Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. Indies, a milestone in the class. action agreement reached in 2006 between the Canadian government, churches and residential school survivors.
sinclair too said the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network that the church must return the stolen land; release stolen indigenous documents and artifacts in their possession, and commit to a full-scale investigation into past and present church abuses.
That was repeated by Cindy Blackstocka longtime advocate for indigenous children, who said the church needs to change its behavior to prevent abuse similar to what happened in residential schools from happening again.
“What is the church really going to do to reform itself so that it doesn’t cause this kind of systematic harm to children in the future?” she said in a interview with the Ottawa Citizen newspaper after the Pope’s apology in the Italian capital.
“So what I really want to see from the church is that kind of introspective reform to really change the process before they ask for forgiveness, and there’s no sign of that. And honor these children who have suffered or lost their lives. At the very least, they deserve that their memories help protect other children in the future.”
In the meantime, residential school survivors, as well as intergenerational survivors — children, grandchildren and other family members of those forced into institutions — need support for ongoing trauma and the healing process, said Angela White, director executive of the Indian Residential School Survivors Society (IRSSS), based in Vancouver, British Columbia.
“Part of that atonement is trying to rebuild everything that was torn down, the language, the internalized self-loathing and questioning of who you are, and calling out the violence that takes place in our homes because of these residential schools,” White said. she told Al Jazeera.
The province-funded organization provides legal and essential services to residential school survivors, their families, and individuals facing intergenerational trauma, including addiction and mental health support, job training, recreation, and state preservation programs. idiom.
White said the money the Catholic Church owes as part of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement would go a long way toward advancing that work.
The Catholic Church pledged $24 million ($30 million Canadian) during that historic deal, but nearly two decades later it has yet to be paid, and indigenous leaders say with interest, the sum is now closer to $48 million. dollars (60 million Canadian dollars). ). CBC News reported last year that the church spent millions of dollars that were supposed to go to residential school survivors on “lawyers, administration, a private fundraising company, and unapproved loans.”
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) last year also Announced a five-year $24 million ($30 million Canadian dollar) fundraiser to help support healing and reconciliation programs for residential school survivors. but CBC reported in December that the campaign had not started; an official with the group told the public broadcaster that they were still working on a detailed plan.
“[Our people need help] so they can stop surviving and start living,” White told Al Jazeera, adding that the wounds caused by the loss of culture, language and tradition in residential schools and the recent discoveries of unmarked children’s graves who died there are still fresh.
“If we don’t have the support systems like the IRSSS and other organizations across the country, that apology doesn’t really mean anything.”
Indigenous leaders have also said that the pope’s apology will not have full merit until it is delivered on indigenous land. The Pope told First Nations, Metis and Inuit delegates in Rome last Friday that he plans to visit them in Canada in July.
Metis National Council President Cassidy Caron said the Metis are anticipating its arrival and that it will be “incredibly significant” for survivors. “We look forward to when the Pope visits and delivers a similar, if not stronger, message when he reaches our communities,” she said.
“Just think of the 30 or more people whom he met this week and was so moved by those 30 people that he felt compelled to offer this apology. Imagine what it’s going to feel like when you come to our home countries and meet our people, see our communities.”
Ultimately, reconciliation is a community effort that involves more than the church, said Chief Antoine, who invited all Canadians to work together toward reconciliation.
“Allies, we call on you to support and assist in our recovery, in our restoration and rebuilding of our family,” Antoine said.
“It will also include the engagement of all alumni of these genocidal institutions, the guidance of our guardians of knowledge, the direction of our leadership, and the inspirational experience of our children to ensure that the spirit and intent of reconciliation reflect the truthful processes that they are needed to support and assist the nation’s original recovery, restoration, and rebuilding of families.”