The country was deeply shaken after it became known last week that the remains of 215 children had been found on the grounds of Kamloops Boarding School in the Canadian province of British Columbia.
As a Catholic, I am very disappointed with the position of the Catholic Church now and over the years. We expect the church to move forward and take responsibility for what happened, Trudeau said at a news conference Friday.
The purpose of “assimilation”
Between 1831 and 1996, boarding schools were operated in Canada for the country’s indigenous population. During this period, about 150,000 children were forced from their homes to “accommodate” them in schools – this is the stated goal.
Schools were run by the Canadian state or churches, usually Catholic.
In 2015, Canada presented the findings of a truth commission that investigated state abuses of the country’s Aboriginal people. The report estimates that around 4,000 children died from neglect and abuse during the years the boarding school system was in use. This number has not been confirmed or denied.
Kamloop Boarding School was operated by the Catholic Church on behalf of the authorities between 1890 and 1969. It closed in 1978.
We continue to face opposition from the Church, Trudeau said, recalling a trip he took to the Vatican in 2017 where he tried to offer a formal apology to students of the Catholic Church.
Truth Before Reconciliation
But at the same time, the Canadian prime minister has stated that he hopes church representatives will now take responsibility before it becomes relevant to her referral to court.
“Go to your local parishes, to the bishops and cardinals and make it clear to them that we expect the Church to come forward and take responsibility for its part in this matter, and that it can aid in mourning and healing, including the articles,” Trudeau urged Catholics in Canada.
“We need the truth before we start talking about justice, healing and reconciliation,” said Justin Trudeau.
After the remains of 215 children were found, representatives of Tk’emlups te Secwepemc declared in a statement that this is “an unimaginable loss, something that has been talked about for a long time but is only now documented”.