The Pope’s Apology and a Crime the Canadian Government Cannot Escape

By Elham Abedini

The same days when images of the murder of George Floyd, an African-American, by American police made headlines and citizens of many Western states, including the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom Protesting Systematic Racism, Just Another News Report Shocked the World; the discovery of around a thousand mass graves in a place where special schools for the natives had been set up for years.

The activities of residential schools for Canadian native children from the 19th century until 1996, that is to say less than 30 years ago, which aimed at what was called “cultural assimilation” and what was in fact the elimination of native language and customs, was quite shameful and racist, but the fact that around three to six thousand children died in these schools turned the matter into a full-scale disaster. On the other hand, it was found that the Canadian government and the Catholic Church had a direct and important role in the creation and management of the schools.

Pope Francis, the leader of the world’s Catholics, who traveled to Canada to apologize to the natives of the country, said in his speech in the town of Masquasis: “I humbly ask forgiveness for the evil that so many Christians have committed against indigenous peoples. ”

The Catholic Church was responsible for running more than 60-70% of the 139 residential schools, but for years refused to apologize despite pressure from the public and even the Canadian federal government. In these schools, more than 150,000 indigenous children were forcibly separated from their parents and many of them were victims of physical, mental and sexual abuse. Children in these schools were not allowed to speak their own language and were not allowed to recognize their culture of origin. In numerous independent research reports on these schools, their mechanism has been described as “cultural genocide”. For example, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada concluded in its 2015 report that what happened in Canada’s residential schools was “cultural genocide.”

The Catholic Church has been involved in at least three serious scandals and crises in recent years. In the 1990s, the publication of revealing reports of child sexual abuse by church priests was the start of the disclosure of more cases and is still ongoing. So far, at least a thousand priests have been officially defrocked due to child abuse and sex scandals. In 2013, the Vatican announced that cases of child abuse by Catholic Church priests annually amounted to around 600. In this case, Pope Francis ultimately had to apologize to the victims while condemning the problem. Additionally, criminal lawsuits over moral scandals have inflicted hundreds of millions of dollars on the Catholic Church in compensation and litigation.

The third scandal facing the Catholic Church was the involvement of some Church officials, including priests and cardinals, in financial corruption. The disclosure of cases of money laundering, the use of tax havens and the receipt of bribes and expensive gifts eventually led Pope Francis to issue a decree obliging Vatican authorities to provide full financial information. . Also, according to the decree, no individual can accept personal gifts worth more than 40 euros.

A particularly important issue in the Pope’s apology is the Catholic Church’s acknowledgment of “organized guilt.” This means that for a hundred years, in an organized, deliberate and aware way of what is happening in the residential schools, the cultural genocide, the physical, mental and sexual abuse of children, as well as the death of these natives for due to illness and lack of treatment facilities, frostbite, suicides, fires, malnutrition, exhausting and forced labor and even physical harassment have occurred. On the other hand, these schools secretly buried the indigenous students in the same place of the school by digging mass graves and, in many cases, even the families were not informed of the fate of their children.

Of course, the role of the Catholic Church in the establishment and management of these residential schools and the cultural genocide against aboriginal people is not limited to Canada. According to reports from indigenous communities, the church has played a leading role in running these schools in America.

The remarkable point regarding the Pope’s apology for the Church’s responsibility in the incident is the reaction of many media and indigenous leaders who, although they spoke of the Pope’s apology and his reflection, stressed that the apology would not suffice. It shows how severe the disaster was and how its aftermath brings emotional woes to survivors as well as the negative impact of these schools in destroying indigenous culture.

Elham Abedini is a researcher in international relations.

(This article was originally written in Persian and translated into English by Press TV staff. The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Press TV.)