By: Emma Wei
Thousands of Indigenous Canadian children were killed, and others were physically and sexually assaulted in their residential school systems. This week, Pope Francis is traveling to Canada to apologizefor the Roman Catholic Church’s involvement.
In addition, the church paid $1.2 million CAD and promised $25 million CAD for reinstitution. A $30 million CAD fundraising goal has been set as well.
The visit came after many politicians and Indigenous leaders had requested a Vatican apology. In addition, many groups went to the Vatican and protested.
These residential schools were created to erase Indigenous culture and language by removing the children from their families and indoctrinating them with Western customs.
32 years ago, Phil Fontaine, former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, was one of the first Indigenous leaders to publicly speak on his experience at a Catholic-run residential school. For a long time, he faced abuse and suffered as a child.
Fontaine says, “Many of us have had thoughts about the Catholic Church for a long time, and this particular moment may sweep aside these doubts that have been there.” Despite his doubts, Fontaine believes it's time to make peace with the church. “To make it all work, you have to be able to forgive,” he said.
However, other Indigenous people have disagreed, mainly among the younger generation.
23-year-old Riley Yesno is a doctoral student at the University of Toronto from Eabametoong First Nation in Ontario. She voiced her opinions: “I don’t care about the pope. I’m very critical about the pope visit,” and added “And I say that as somebody whose grandparents went to Catholic-run residential schools. I don’t see how any of these words that he’s going to say will actually fix the damage that the residential schools caused. I don’t know if it’ll bring healing for my grandparents.”
Despite the apology and money, the pain and suffering Indigenous children went through will never go away. The number of kids who did not come back is estimated to be around 10,000. Over a thousand graves remain unmarked.