Ermineskin is the name of one of 196 boarding schools that Indigenous girls and boys in Canada were forced to attend. These residential schools operated from 1883 to 1996. 150,000 girls and boys passed through these “schools”, set up to seek the forced assimilation of Indigenous peoples into Canadian society. The appearance of mass graves where between 4,000 and 6,000 of these children, victims of abuse, were buried, made them “appear in the news”.
Mr. John Alexander Macdonald, Prime Minister of Canada between 1867 and 1873, did not hide the motivations of these residential schools: “The great object of our legislation was to put an end to the tribal system and to assimilate the Indian people to all regard to the other inhabitants of the Domain as soon as they are able to change. The “civilized” British intended to solve “the problem” of the survival of the indigenous peoples that they could not exterminate, by tearing out their souls by their roots. In boarding schools, girls and boys were separated from their families and communities, prevented from speaking their own language, and forced to convert to Christianity. Physical abuse, sexual abuse, lack of health services, death, were the extremes of this “forced assimilation”.
Several Christian churches have taken over the management of these boarding schools. “I apologize for the way in which, unfortunately, many Christians have adopted the colonialist mentality of the powers that oppress indigenous peoples,” Pope Francis said Monday, July 25, before the indigenous peoples of Canada. And he continued: “I apologize, in particular, for the way in which many members of the Church and religious communities have cooperated, also out of indifference, with these projects of cultural destruction and forced assimilation of the governments of the time. , who ended up in the residential school system.
Asking for forgiveness, caring for victims and their heirs, granting reparations to peoples and communities, acknowledging that they continue to re-victimize themselves through discrimination, are essential issues. But the claim of superiority as the basis for the domination of the powerful over the majority is what needs to be eradicated, just so that we can walk together as humanity.
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