Canadian Bishops call for justice after graves found at another former residential school

Canadian bishops called for justice

Bishops of the Canadian province of Saskatchewan called for justice and “repentance” after hundreds of unmarked graves were discovered at a former Catholic-run residential school.

“We offer our condolences, but we know that this is not enough, and our words must move to concrete action,” the bishops said in a joint statement.

Leaders of a First Nation in Saskatchewan said investigators found 751 unmarked graves at Marieval Indian Residential School.

This followed the discovery of the remains of 215 Indigenous children in Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Colombia. Kamloops was run by Catholics from 1890 until 1969.

Chief Cadmusn Delmore of the Cowessess First Nation made the announcement at a press conference.

Cadmusn noted that the Catholic church had been operating the residential school and overseeing its cemetery. The church had removed the headstones, he said.

“This was a crime against humanity, an assault on First Nations,” said Chief Bobby Cameron of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous First Nations in Saskatchewan.

Cameron added that he expects more graves to be discovered on residential school grounds across Canada.

“We will not stop until we find all the bodies,” Cameron concluded.

The Marieval school was run by Catholics from 1899 until 1969. The government took control of the school in 1969 who then handed it over to the Cowessess First Nation in 1987. The school was closed in 1997.

Archbishop Richard Gagnon of Winnipeg, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, called the discovery “very sad and disturbing” in a tweet.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the discovery “horrific”. He icommitted “to working together in true partnership to right these historic wrongs. And to advance reconciliation in concrete, meaningful, and lasting ways.”

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission operated between 2008 and 2015. It reported on the history of the country’s residential school system, including the widespread abuse, neglect, and poor treatment of Indigenous children.

The federal government created the residential school system beginning in the 1870s. Catholics and members of Protestant denominations oversaw the schools.

The system was created to forcibly assimilate Indigenous children, the commission reported. It separated the children from their parents to strip them of family and cultural ties.

The commission found that at least 4,100 children died from “disease or accident” at the schools.

A government directive from 1958 showed that the Indian Affairs department “was prepared to authorize only minimum funeral expenditures. They would only pay for transporting students to their home reserves if the cost of transportation was less than the cost of burying the student where they died,” noted Dr Scott Hamilton, a professor in the Department of Anthropology at Lakehead University.

“The most basic of questions about missing children—Who died? Why did they die? Where are they buried? These have never been addressed or comprehensively documented by the Canadian government,” Bishop Fred Henry said, quoting the commission’s report.


Catholic News Agency

Complex Canada


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