- PHILIP PULLELLA and KEVIN DOUGHERTY
Update: 10:50 a.m. (AEST)
Quebec City, Canada
On Wednesday, Canadian leaders ostensibly spoke to Pope Francis about the horrors of church-run residential schools and the pontiff lamented that many still live in poverty in one of the world’s wealthiest countries.
Francis flew east across the country from Edmonton on the Alberta prairies to Quebec City on the St. Lawrence River for meetings with the country’s leaders in one of the oldest cities in the Americas.
Pope Francis attends a welcome ceremony along with the Governor General of Canada, Mary Simon, and the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, at the Citadelle in Quebec, Canada, on July 27. PHOTO: Reuters/Guglielmo Mangiapane,
Francis is on an apology tour of Canada, asking for forgiveness for the Catholic Church’s role in residential schools that implemented government policies aimed at assimilating native people by trying to erase their cultures.
More than 150,000 Indigenous children were separated from their families and taken to boarding schools, which operated between 1870 and 1996. They were starved or beaten for speaking their native language and sexually abused in a system that the Truth Commission and Canada’s reconciliation called “cultural genocide”. .
Speaking to government officials including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the Citadel of Quebec, the largest British-built fortress in North America, Francois spoke of the “radical injustice” of the unequal distribution of wealth.
“It is outrageous that the welfare generated by economic development does not benefit all sectors of society,” he said, noting that many needy or homeless people have had to turn to churches. and food banks to survive.
“And it is indeed sad that, precisely among the indigenous peoples, we often find many indices of poverty, as well as other negative indicators, such as the low percentage of schooling and less easy access to the property of a home and health care,” he said. said.
Indigenous people, who make up approximately 5% of Canada’s population, have higher levels of poverty and lower life expectancies than other Canadians, and are more often victims of violent crime, and more likely to suffer from addictions and to be incarcerated.
In their speeches to the Pope, Trudeau and Governor General Mary Simon, who represents Queen Elizabeth II, told him poignantly and accurately about the tragedies that unfolded in schools, the last of which ended nearly two decades ago. before Francis became pope.
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Alone, isolated and abused
“As a father, I can’t imagine having my children taken away from me. When my children are crying, I can console them. When they are happy, I can share that feeling of joy with them,” Trudeau said.
“But in residential schools, these children were alone and isolated in their pain and grief, away from their families and communities. And even worse, stripped of their language, their culture, their identity,” the prime minister said.
At the Citadel, Trudeau, who has made reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous peoples one of his political priorities, and Simon greeted the Pope accompanied by an honor guard wearing red uniforms and black leather caps bear.
“With this visit, you are signaling to the world that you and the Roman Catholic Church are joining us on our journey of reconciliation, healing, hope and renewal,” Simon said.
“But these people, these survivors, defy definition. They are parents who stood up for their children when no one else would. They are defenders who fought and still fight for their languages and cultures to that they may thrive for generations to come,” she said.
– Additional reporting by STEVE SCHERER and ANNA MEHLER PAPERNY