Pope Calls treatment of aboriginal people in Canadian Schools ‘genocide’
Pope Francis has stated that the treatment of indigenous peoples in Canada is tantamount to "genocide" following a six-day trip in which apologised to survivors of abuse at Catholic schools.
The head of the Catholic Church stated on Saturday that “taking children, changing culture, changing mindset, changing traditions, changing a race” was tantamount to genocide.
“I didn’t pronounce that word [in Canada] because it didn’t occur to me, but I did describe [it]. And I asked for forgiveness for the process of genocide. I condemned it as well,” he told reporters aboard his return flight to Rome.
During his trip, the Pope apologized for the “harm” inflicted on Indigenous communities in Canadian residential schools, where children were sent under a policy of forced assimilation.
He referred to the “cultural destruction” and “physical, verbal, psychological and spiritual violence” of children for decades.
Between the late 1800s and the 1990s, the government of Canada sent approximately 150,000 children to 139 church-operated boarding schools where they were separated from their families, language, and culture.
Many were victims of physical and sexual violence, and thousands are believed to have passed away from diseases, starvation, and neglect.
Since May 2021, over 1,300 unmarked graves have been found at the sites of former schools, sending shockwaves across Canada —which slowly began to recognize that long and dark chapter in its history.
The Pope’s Canadian tour concluded on Friday in the northern territory of Nunavut, where he met with residential school survivors.
“I thank you for having the courage to tell your stories and to share your great suffering, which I could not imagine,” Pope Francis told the crowd.
Earlier this week, the Pope offered an apology for the first time in Canada. “I humbly implore forgiveness for the evil that so many Christians did against indigenous peoples,” he said on Monday.
For decades, Aboriginal leaders had demanded an apology from the church for its role in the residential school system.