By Julio Cesar Rivas
Toronto, Canada, Jun 4 (EFE).- Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday he demanded an apology from the Catholic Church for abuses suffered by indigenous children in boarding schools in his country, after the recent discovery of the remains of 215 minors buried.
Trudeau downplayed Canada’s responsibility in the matter during a Friday press conference despite the government having established the boarding school system, often managed by religious groups, to forcibly assimilate the indigenous population.
“As a Catholic I am deeply disappointed by the position of the Catholic Church,” said the prime minister, who said that years ago he personally asked the pope during a trip to the Vatican to “apologize and ask for forgiveness” for what happened in the internees.
“I find it very difficult for the Catholic Church to continue refusing to apologize and participate in this important process,” Trudeau said.
The United Nations human rights experts called Friday on Canada and the Vatican to investigate the discovery a week ago of the remains of 215 indigenous children in the school residence of Kamloops, in the west of the country.
In a statement, experts said these investigations should include “forensic examinations of the remains and the identification and registration of the missing children,” in addition to encompassing not only the Kamloops center, but other former internships for indigenous minors.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said Thursday the agency “could be relevant” when it comes to providing technical assistance in the task of investigating school residences.
Trudeau said he had reservations about the commissioner’s possible role because “it is not the decision of international organizations to decide whether to come here, although they would be welcome.”
Rosanne Casimir, head of the Tk’emlups Te Secwepemc, an indigenous group in western Canada’s British Columbia province, announced on May 28 the discovery of the remains on the grounds of a former school residence. Thousands of children passed through the school system during its almost 80 years of existence.
Casimir said Friday during a press conference that she wants a “public apology” from the Catholic Church for its role “not only for us, but for the whole world.”
The Kamloops boarding school, part of the system of 130 residence halls set up by Canada’s government, was run by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.
The Oblate Missionaries were responsible for the management of almost half of the 130 school residences for indigenous people established between 1890 and 1996, the year in which the last boarding school closed.
It is estimated that some 150,000 indigenous children were interned in these institutions and at least 4,000 died during their stay.
The rest of the school residences, where minors suffered systematic physical, psychological and sexual abuse, were run by other Christian groups or Canadian government officials.
Trudeau accused the Catholic Church in Canada of not wanting to make available to the indigenous population of the country the registry of children who were forcibly interned in school residences, as well as other information about their operation.
However, indigenous groups and experts have said the Canadian government is also responsible for these records.
Although Trudeau said Friday that they are essential for reconciliation with Aborigines, the records have not been made public because Ottawa has gone to court to keep them sealed.
The prime minister said his government is holding “conversations” with indigenous groups to determine the compensation school residences victims would receive.
Several survivors of the St. Anne’s boarding school have asked the courts that Ottawa release 12,300 documents detailing physical and sexual abuse at the center, also run by Missionaries Oblates between 1902 and 1976, although the Canadian government has objected for years. EFE