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One month ago, Pope Francis and the Vatican announced an upcoming papal visit to Canada to foster reconciliation with the country’s Indigenous populations in the aftermath of children being found in unmarked, residential school graves.
It is well-documented that children experienced profound neglect and abuse in the residential schooling system, which was still up and running in Canada as late as 1997.
Though the Canadian government was in charge of the formation and the forced separation of Indigenous children from their families, the hands-on task of running the schools and engaging in cultural erasure and assimilatory education belonged to religious institutions, predominantly the Roman Catholic Church.
There is an undeniable link between residential schooling and the harm caused by some priests, deacons and nuns — clergy members who children should have been able to look to for compassion and support. Instead, for many it proved to be a tool for cultural genocide and physical, emotional and sexual abuse, the antithesis of the Catholic doctrine as we know it today.