Native Village Youth and Education News
October, 2009


Pope apologizes for abuse at native schools
Condensed by Native Village

Canada: Pope Benedict has said he is sorry for the physical and sexual abuse and "deplorable" conduct at Catholic church-run Canadian residential schools. The Pontiff expressed said "acts of abuse cannot be tolerated."

"Given the sufferings that some indigenous children experienced in the Canadian residential school system, the Holy Father expressed his sorrow at the anguish caused by the deplorable conduct of some members of the church and he offered his sympathy and prayerful solidarity," a statement from the Vatican said.

Archbishop Gerard Pettipas of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops  says it was an important moment --never before had the Church as a whole apologized for the abuse aboriginal students suffered from Catholic missionary congregations.

"What we've been trying to do is to bring about healing and reconciliation between the Church, the government of Canada and our First Nations people, "Pettipas said. "As a gesture of reconciliation... it was important to hear from the one person who does speak for the Catholic Church around the world, to hear him say 'I am sorry. I feel for what you people have suffered. We hope that we can turn the page and move toward a better future together.'"

More than 150,000 native children were forced to attend Catholic run schools from the 1800s until the 1970s. Their plan was to remove the children from their homes and culture and assimilate them into Canadian society.

The Canadian government has admitted that physical and sexual abuse in the schools was rampant. Many students recall being beaten for speaking their native languages and losing touch with their parents.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper formally apologized in Parliament last year. He said the children's treatment at these schools was a sad chapter in Canada's history. He added that the policy of forced assimilation was wrong, caused great harm, and had no place in the country.

Canada has also offered compensation, as part of a lawsuit settlement between the government, churches and surviving students


"We heard the prime minister's apology a year ago in June. And today, to listen to the Holy Father explain his profound sorrow and sadness and to express that there was no room for this sort of abuse to take place in the residential schools, that is an emotional barrier that now has been lifted for many people." Chief Edward John of the Tlazten First Nation who hopes the apology will help "many people move forward."

"I think His Holiness understands the pain that was endured by so many and I heard him say that it caused him great anguish. I also heard His Holiness say that the abuse of the nature that was inflicted on us has no place in the Church, it's intolerable and it caused him great anguish." "What I heard, it gives me comfort." Phil Fontaine, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations

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