“It is time for the Catholic Church to take up its responsibilities” | Indigenous rights news


Disclaimer: The story below contains details of child abuse

Montreal Canada – Gerry Shingoose went to deliver a message.

But the 63-year-old said she had to wait more than 10 hours on Friday to meet Archbishop Richard Gagnon at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Winnipeg in central Canada.

Along with other residential school survivors, she had previously affixed 215 orange ribbons to the door around the Roman Catholic church in honor of the 215 Indigenous children whose remains were found at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in Colombia. British.

Shingoose said she was ready to wait all night, however, to make a request to the Catholic Church: to take responsibility for the horrific abuses committed against Indigenous children for decades in Church-run residential schools across Canada.

“I told him that the time has come for the Catholic Church to admit and take responsibility and accountability,” said Al Jazeera Shingoose, who survived nine years in a boarding school in the province of Saskatchewan.

“I demand justice for the 215 children and for the children who remain to be found. I demand justice for residential school survivors, ”she said in a telephone interview. “As a residential school survivor, we have shared our stories over and over again – and the Catholic Church has never recognized them or admitted what they did to us in school. “

Discovery of Kamloops

The Shingoose reunion just over a week after Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation said it discovered the remains of 215 Indigenous children on the grounds of Kamloops Residential School after conducting a ground radar search. Some of the children were only three years old.

The discovery in the Western Province of Canada caused pain and further trauma for Indigenous peoples across the country, especially residential school survivors, their families and communities.

Gerry Shingoose was forced to attend residential school for nine years [Courtesy Gerry Shingoose]

The Government of Canada, as well as the Catholic Church, which operated most of the schools, are under increasing pressure to recognize the full extent of the crimes committed in the institutions, to help First Nations discover other places of collective burial and pay for repairs. .

Between the 1870s and the 1990s, more than 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children were forcibly separated from their families and forced to attend residential schools, in an attempt to assimilate them into Canadian society.

The institutions were plagued by abuse and more than 4,000 children are believed to have died there, mostly from diseases, which spread rapidly through the overcrowded and dangerous buildings.

Leaders of indigenous communities said there is no doubt that there are more anonymous graves.

United Nations experts on Friday also urged Canada and the Catholic Church to conduct “prompt and thorough” inquiries into the deaths, including a forensic examination of the remains, and to make efforts to identify and d ‘register missing children.

“The judiciary should conduct criminal investigations into all suspicious deaths and allegations of torture and sexual violence against children housed in residential schools, and prosecute and punish the perpetrators and receivers who may still be alive,” they said. also stated.

“Horrible abuse”

Shingoose, a member of the bear clan of the Tootinaowaziibeeng Treated Reserve in western Manitoba, attended Muscowequan Residential School in neighboring Saskatchewan from 1962 to 1971. The Muscowequan First Nation has identified at least 35 graves at this boarding school, CTV News recently reported, and executives believe there may be more at the site.

“I suffered horrific abuse in school for nine years: emotionally, mentally, physically and sexually,” Shingoose told Al Jazeera that in addition to Pope Francis’ apology, she wishes to see charges against the aggressors and for the Catholic Church. to publish all his files on residential schools.

Gagnon, the Archbishop of Winnipeg, who is also president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in a May 31 statement that “news of the recent discovery [in Kamloops] is shocking ”.

“It rekindles trauma in many communities across this country. Honoring the dignity of the little lost requires that the truth be brought to light, ”he said. The statement did not offer an apology or recognition of the church’s role in the residential school abuse.

But Shingoose said her meeting with the Archbishop made her feel like she was not listened to or taken seriously. “It seemed almost repeated,” she said. “It didn’t mean anything. I did not feel any sincere feelings or feelings of heart from him.

No excuses

For years, Indigenous peoples have urged the churches that operated Canada’s residential schools under the auspices of the federal government to recognize their role in the systemic abuses that have occurred. But while other Christian denominations have apologized in recent decades, Catholic Church leaders have not.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC), which concluded in 2015 that the residential school system amounted to “cultural genocide,” also urged the Pope to issue a public apology on Canadian soil to the survivors, their families and to their communities.

In 2018, after a formal request from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the church said Pope Francis would not respond to that request. Trudeau said at the time he was “disappointed” with the decision, but vowed to continue pushing for a papal apology. Trudeau reiterated this on Friday, again calling on the church to apologize and release all school-related files.

Pope Francis on Sunday expressed his “pain” at the discovery in Kamloops – but once again failed to deliver the long-awaited apology.

People join a memorial outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in Kamloops, British Columbia on May 31 [Dennis Owen/Reuters]

Kathleen Mahoney, a law professor at the University of Calgary, told Al Jazeera that the Canadian government as well as the church should work with First Nations to uncover other mass burial sites across the country, in addition to submit their files to facilitate this research.

“Churches have impeccable records, we know that. The Catholic Church has kept impeccable records – you can find what they had for lunch in 1918, if you go through the diaries of the nuns … The Catholic Church still hasn’t turned over all of its records, which is a problem. “

The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, who ran the boarding school in Kamloops, Recount The Canadian Press news agency said this week that it was “committed to doing more” to make its files available. “We will work to bring together the archives of daily life in Oblate communities, known as Codex Historicus, and make them available in a more accessible format,” the order said.

‘True story’

Trudeau and several federal government ministers have said in recent days that they remain committed to supporting Indigenous communities in their search for missing children. Ottawa also said its 2019 budget provided $ 28 million (C $ 33.8 million) over three years to respond to the TRC’s calls to action on school deaths. Canada officially apologized for residential schools in 2008.

But the Trudeau government also faces growing calls to take concrete action to address the legacy of residential schools, including continued discrimination against Indigenous children across Canada – and to implement the calls to action. .

To date, only eight of the 94 recommendations issued by the TRC five years ago – after a lengthy hearing process in which residential school survivors shared their experiences – have been completed, according to the Yellowhead Institute, a First Nations led research.

Meanwhile, back in Winnipeg, Shingoose said she would continue to advocate on behalf of other residential school survivors, as well as any children who never returned home.

“The little children who are buried in schools, on school grounds, they have no voice, so I am a residential school survivor and I carry that voice for them,” she told Al Jazeera, adding that she also shares her truth. for her three children, eight grandchildren and four great grandchildren.

“Canada needs to know this truth. They need to know our true history and what happened to us, the aboriginal children, in these residential schools.

The Crisis Line for Families and Residential School Survivors Canada is available 24 hours a day at 1-866-925-4419.

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