Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologized on Friday, June 25 and rebuked the nation’s historic and deplorable treatment of First Nations people.
Trudeau’s apology came after the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) reported on Wednesday that some 751 unmarked graves had been discovered in a mass grave at a residential school in Canada, where the former Marieval Indian Residential School was located in the province of Saskatchewan.
It was the second discovery of its kind, following the discovery in May of the remains of 215 Aboriginal children in the garden of a boarding school in the town of Kamlopps, British Columbia.
“To the members of the Cowessess community and the Treaty 4 communities, we are sorry. It was something we couldn’t undo in the past, but we can pledge every day to fix it now and in the future,” Trudeau said.
Treaty 4 represents a historic treaty between Queen Victoria and certain First Nations tribes.
Beginning in the 1820s, under the direction of the Canadian government, First Nations children were, in some cases, forcibly separated from their families and transferred to various boarding schools in an attempt to instill in them European culture.
Up to 4,000 children are believed to have died from disease and psychological, physical and sexual abuse. In a significant number of cases, the parents never knew what happened to their children, they simply disappeared.
Around 140 schools have been established across the country, attended by around 150,000 children. The last closed in 1996. The schools were run by various religious groups, including the Catholic Church.
“This was incredibly harmful government policy that has been the reality of Canada for many, many decades and Canadians today are horrified and ashamed of the way our country, its culture and its language have behaved and the assimilation that was forced upon them,” Trudeau said in a statement from his Ottawa country home.
In another development, the Catholic Missionary Order of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, which was responsible for 48 residential schools, including the two where the unmarked graves were discovered in British Columbia and Saskatchewan, finally agreed to release related historical documents. to schools. .
The order had previously kept the archives secret.
“We deeply regret our involvement in residential schools and the harm they have caused to Indigenous peoples and communities,” the order said in a statement posted on its website.
Trudeau and First Nations leaders have pressed Pope Francis to formally apologize for the involvement of the Catholic Church, but the pontiff has so far failed to respond.
The schools were also run by Anglican and United churches, which issued formal apologies.
See also: Hundreds of Clandestine Graves Containing the Remains of Indigenous Children Have Been Discovered in Canada.
*Juan Felipe Vélez Rojas contributed to this note.
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