The Minister of Traditional Affairs of Canada said on Wednesday that it was a disgrace that the Pope had never officially apologized for the harassment of indigenous Catholic-run traditional schools in his country, calling them “labor camps.”
Marc Miller’s comments follow the recent discovery of unmarked graves of 215 children in Kamloops in one of the 139 boarding schools established a century ago with the aim of uniting Canadian natives.
“I am doing it, I am doing it,” the minister told a news conference when asked if he supported the growing pope’s apology requests from the pope’s 2015 truth and reconciliation commission report, and earlier.
He said that he thinks that it’s a shame that they haven’t done that, and that it hasn’t been done so far. He added saying that It has to be done and that It is the responsibility of the Canadian Council of Bishops.
Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett also said the pope’s apology was needed to “open up treatment” to indigenous communities.
“They want to hear the Pope apologize,” he said, urging Catholics across Canada to “ask their church to do better.”
A few hours after Miller’s remarks, Archbishop of Vancouver J Michael Miller apologized on social media.
He said in a statement that In the wake of the tragic revelation of the remains of the 215 children who were present at Kamloops Indian Residential School, I am writing to express my deepest condolences and deep sorrow to the families and communities affected by this tragic news.
He said promising to make church records of these schools available that If words of apology for these unspeakable acts bring life and healing, they must be accompanied by concrete actions that promote full disclosure of the truth.
He said that there is no doubt that the church was wrong in implementing the government’s colonial policy that led to the extermination of children, families and communities.
– ‘Workers’ camps’ –
The Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia, where unknown graves were announced last week using ground radar, operated by the Catholic Church on behalf of Ottawa from 1890 to 1969.
About 150,000 Indian, Inuit, and Metis youths have been forcibly enrolled in these schools, where students are subjected to physical and sexual abuse by principals and teachers who rob them of their culture and language.
Today those situations are blamed on high levels of poverty, alcohol and domestic violence, as well as high suicide rates in indigenous communities.
Miller recalls an anecdote distributed by a traditional religious guardian at one of those schools where students – who were often malnourished – were “punished” for eating apples from their orchards or eggs for sale.
“These were labor camps in it,” he said. “So calling them a school is probably boring.”
A delegation of traditional leaders in 2009 met privately with Pope Benedict who “expressed his sorrow” over the school bullying.
Although the statement of remorse was accepted by the party as “important,” they said they had failed a formal apology.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission later reported that saying that it is disappointing for the survivors and others that the Pope (had not yet made) a public apology and emphasis on Canada for the abuses.
Pope Francis’ refusal in 2018 – after the Canadian parliament approved the proposal and apologized to the pope – drew the attention of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, saying he was “disappointed” by the church’s decision.