The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops officially apologized for its role in the country’s infamous residential school system on Friday, after refusing to do so for years despite public pressure.
In a statement released on Friday, the organization expressed “deep remorse” and unequivocally apologized with all Catholic entities directly involved in the operation of the schools.
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops is the national assembly of bishops of Canada, officially recognized by the Catholic Church and part of a global network of conferences.
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Beginning in 1831 and as recently as 1996, Canada’s residential school system forcibly separated Indigenous children from their families, subjecting them to malnutrition and physical and sexual abuse in which the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of the country called in 2015 “cultural genocide”.
Survivors who spoke to Reuters recalled perpetual hunger and haunting loneliness, with schools run under threat and the frequent use of force.
“We recognize the serious abuses that have been committed by some members of our Catholic community; physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, cultural and sexual,” the statement added.
“We also sadly recognize the historical and continuing trauma and legacy of suffering and challenges faced by Indigenous peoples that endure to this day. “
The Pope and the Catholic Church itself refused to apologize for the role of the Church, unlike the Anglican, Presbyterian and United Churches.
Global outrage over the lack of an apology spread earlier this year, after hundreds of anonymous graves of Indigenous children were discovered at the sites of former residential schools across Canada.