215 children in Kamloops, 751 anonymous graves in Marieval, 182 unmarked graves in Cranbrook. And again the discovery of 160 new unidentified graves announced on July 13, in western Canada near the site of the former Kuper Island boarding school. This is the fourth discovery in just over a month. “We cannot bring back to life those who perished, but we can and will speak the truth and continue to work with Indigenous peoples to combat discrimination and systemic racism,” said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Disastrous discoveries

The scandal of children who died in boarding schools run by religious congregations is not about to abate. The disastrous discoveries accumulate. More than a thousand remains have been found near establishments which received indigenous children, while the number of children who died in these residential schools is estimated at 4,000. Between the end of the 19th centurye century and 1996, more than 150,000 children were placed in care, cut off from their families, their language and their culture. And it is the Catholic Church that has managed about 70% of the 139 residential schools in Canada.

→ CONTEXT. In Canada, discovery of graves of Indigenous children

This heavy file also has a complex financial aspect. The Church had already pledged to provide funding of $ 25 million (€ 21 million) for residential school survivors. However, only 4 million would be collected for the moment. Driven by events, the Permanent Council of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) supports the bishops of Saskatchewan, the central region of the country, who have taken the initiative of a new “Fundraising campaign to support healing and reconciliation”, which has three specific goals: healing and reconciliation for survivors, research around cemeteries on former residential school sites, and educational and cultural support for First Nations peoples.

Episcopal reactions

Bishops from many dioceses across the country could in turn take local or regional fundraising initiatives. Beyond the financial question, the press release published on Friday July 16 by the CECC confirms that, “Deeply saddened by the legacy of Indian residential schools, the Bishops of Canada are committed to working with Indigenous peoples and communities to better understand the priorities of healing and reconciliation and how to approach them together. “

The announcement of the Canadian episcopate follows incitement to boycott churches by several First Nations leaders, encouraging the indigenous population to abstain from attending Sunday masses, until the Church keeps its financial commitments . “The work of healing and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples is of fundamental importance to our local and national Catholic communities and to all of us as Canadians,” conclude the bishops.

Archives search

The work to find traces of dead children is colossal, especially as religious institutions are struggling to open their archives. At the beginning of June, Justin Trudeau had insisted with ecclesial authorities to facilitate access to documents relating to the mistreatment of children. The Canadian Prime Minister also deplored the refusal of the Pope and the Church to recognize their responsibility in the management of Native residential schools: “It is time for the Catholic Church to recognize its responsibility, its share of guilt and, above all, that it be there so that we know the truth. “

« The Pope must apologize “, demanded in turn several leaders of indigenous communities. “I follow with sorrow the news from Canada of the shocking discovery of the remains of 215 children in British Columbia”, had declared the Pope at the end of the prayer of the Angelus, on June 6.

“Pope Francis is fully committed to hearing directly from Indigenous peoples, to express his sincere closeness, to address the impact of colonization and the role the Church played in the residential school system”, announced the Canadian bishops. First Nations, Métis and Inuit delegations will meet with Pope Francis from December 17 to 20.


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