Pope admits Indigenous children at Canada’s residential schools were subjected to genocide

Pope Francis on the flight back from Iqaluit to Rome Twitter handle of Bob Strulavitch

While during a week-long trip to Canada, Pope Francis did not use the word genocide in any of his addresses, on his flight back to Rome he reportedly told reporters that his description of the residential school system and its forced assimilation of Indigenous children amounts to genocide.

Over the last week, the Pope’s visit to Edmonton, Quebec City, and Iqaluit on a penitential pilgrimage was aimed at healing, reconciliation, and hope between the Catholic Church and Indigenous people.

While addressing residential school survivors and their families in Maskwacis, Alta., Francis expressed deep sorrow for the harm they suffered at the church-run schools and asked for forgiveness.

More than 150,000 First Nations, Métis, and Inuit children were forced to attend government-funded schools between the 1870s and 1997, more than half of which were run by the Catholic Church.

The final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was released in 2015, concluded that the school system amounted to cultural genocide.

After the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves at former residential school sites in 2015, many said what had happened was more than cultural genocide.

NDP member of Parliament Leah last year’s attempt for Parliament to recognize the residential school experience as genocide failed though she believes it meets the definition of genocide drafted by the United Nations.

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