The Catholic Church needs to apologize for their role in Canada’s residential school system, which has been described as an institution that perpetuated cultural genocide upon the country’s indigenous peoples, Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said on Wednesday.
“I do, I do,” Miller said during a press briefing when asked if he supports calls for a papal apology, one of the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report.
Miller emphasized that the lack of an apology to date is “shameful,” adding that responsibility falls “squarely on the shoulders of the Council of Bishops in Canada.”
The minister’s sentiment was shared by Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett.
Wednesday’s press briefing was a continuation of the fallout following the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation’s discovery of 215 children’s remains at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School site.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday that Canada has failed the country’s indigenous community, namely the children whose remains were found at the mass grave site.
The grisly discovery has prompted politicians and indigenous leaders across the country to call for action.
On Monday, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Perry Bellegarde urged the authorities to launch a probe into all former residential school sites, noting that indigenous survivors have long been trying to draw attention to the issue but nobody believed them.
Kamloops was one of the largest schools in Canada and operated from the late XIX century to the late 1970s as part of the residential school system, which placed indigenous children in state-sanctioned boarding schools where they were to be culturally assimilated.
According to Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission report, released in 2015, roughly 150,000 aboriginal children were forcibly assimilated through the residential schools from 1883 to 1998, in a process equated to “cultural genocide.”
The report discovered that around 3,200 died in the schools, with the greatest number of deaths taking place before 1940. Schools also had high rates of tuberculosis and other health incidences in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with death rates remaining high until the 1950s.