“It’s time for the Catholic Church to take responsibility.” News on Children’s Rights


Warning: The following story contains details about child abuse

Montreal, Canada – Gerry Shingoose went to send a message.

But the 63-year-old said she had to wait more than ten hours on Friday to meet with Archbishop Richard Gagnon at St Mary’s Cathedral in Winnipeg, central Canada.

Along with other survivors of the residential schools, he had previously placed 215 orange ribbons on the door of the Roman Catholic Church in honor of the 215 native children whose remains were found in the first Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia.

Shingoose said she was willing to wait all night, however, to make a claim to the Catholic Church: take responsibility for the horrible abuse committed against Indigenous children for decades in church-run residential schools across Canada.

“I told him it was an opportune time for the Catholic Church to admit and take on responsibilities and responsibilities,” said Shingoose, who survived nine years at a residential school in Saskatchewan province in Al Jazeera.

“I am looking for justice for the 215 children and for the children yet to be found. I am seeking justice for the survivors of the residential schools, ”he said in a telephone interview. “As a survivor of a residential school, we shared our stories over and over again, and the Catholic Church never recognized them or admitted what they did to us at school.”

Discover Kamloops

The Shingoose meeting just over a week after Tk’emlups got Secwepemc First Nation said yes discovered the remains of 215 indigenous children on the grounds of Kamloops residential school after conducting a radar search that penetrated the ground. Some of the children were three years old.

The discovery in the western province of Canada has provoked renewed pain and trauma for indigenous people across the country, especially survivors of residential schools, their families and their communities.

Gerry Shingoose was forced to attend a residential school for nine years [Courtesy Gerry Shingoose]

The government of Canada, as well as the Catholic Church, which operated most of the schools, are in the face of mounting pressure recognize the full scope of crimes committed in institutions, help First Nations discover other mass burial sites, and pay for reparations.

Between the 1870s and 1990s, more than 150,000 First Nation, Metis, and Inuit children were forcibly separated from their families and forced to attend residential schools, which sought to assimilate them to Canadian society.

The institutions were full of abuse and more than 4,000 children are believed to have died there, mostly from disease, which spread rapidly to crowded and unsafe buildings.

Leaders of indigenous communities have said there is no doubt there are more unmarked graves.

On Friday, UN experts also urged Canada and the Catholic Church to conduct “rapid and comprehensive” investigations into the deaths, including a forensic examination of the remains, and work to identify and record the missing children.

“The judiciary should conduct criminal investigations into all suspicious deaths and allegations of torture and sexual violence against children housed in residential schools, and prosecute and punish perpetrators and dissimulators who may still live,” he said. dit.

“Horrible abuse”

Shingoose, a member of the Bear Clan of the Tootinaowaziibeeng Treaty Reserve in western Manitoba, attended Muscowequan Residential School in neighboring Saskatchewan Province from 1962 to 1971. The Muscowequan First Nation identified at least 35 graves in that school. residential, CTV News recently reported, and leaders believe there may be more to the site.

“I experienced horrific abuse at school for nine years: emotionally, mentally, physically and sexually,” Shingoose told Al Jazeera that in addition to an apology from Pope Francis, he wants to see charges against the abusers and for in the Catholic Church. publicly publish all their records on residential schools.

Gagnon, Archbishop of Winnipeg, who is also president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, dit in a May 31 statement that “news of the recent discovery [in Kamloops] it’s shocking. “

“It reactivates trauma in many communities on this earth. Honoring the dignity of lost children requires the truth to be revealed, “he said. The statement offered no apology or recognition of the church’s role in residential school abuse.

But Shingoose said her meeting with the archbishop made her feel that they were not listening to her or taking her seriously. “It almost sounded rehearsed,” he said. “It simply came to our notice then. I didn’t get any genuine feeling or any heart feeling from him. “

No apologies

For years, Indigenous people have urged churches that run Canadian residential schools under the general auspices of the federal government to recognize their role in the systemic abuse that occurred. But while other Christian denominations have apologized in recent decades, the leadership of the Catholic Church has not.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC), which in 2015 concluded that the residential school system was tantamount to “cultural genocide,” also urged the Pope to issue a public apology on Canadian territory to survivors, the their families and their communities.

In 2018, then a formal application of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the church said Pope Francis would not meet that demand. Trudeau said at the time that he was “disappointed” by the decision, but vowed to continue pushing for papal apologies. Trudeau reiterated that Friday, calling back to the church to apologize and post all school-related records.

Sunday, Pope Francis expressed “pain” at the discovery to Kamloops, however, once again, he did not offer the requested apology.

People join a memorial in front of the former Kamloops Indian residential school in Kamloops, BC, on May 31 [Dennis Owen/Reuters]

Kathleen Mahoney, a law professor at the University of Calgary, told Al Jazeera that the Canadian government and the church should work with First Nations to discover other mass burial sites across the country, in addition to delivering the their records to make them easier to search.

“Churches have impeccable records, we know that. The Catholic Church kept flawless records: you can find what they ate in 1918, if you go through the diaries of the nuns … The Catholic Church has not yet delivered all its records, which is a problem.

The Oblate Missionaries of Mary Immaculate, who ran the Kamloops residential school, he said This week, the Canadian news agency was “committed to doing more” to make its records available. “We will work to jointly draw records of daily life in Oblate communities, known as the Codex Historicus, and make them available in a more accessible format,” the order said.

‘True story’

Trudeau and several federal government ministers have said in recent days that they remain committed to supporting indigenous communities in their search for missing children. Ottawa also said its 2019 budget provided $ 28 million (C $ 33.8 million) over three years to address calls for TRC action on school deaths. Canada formally apologized for residential schools in 2008.

But the Trudeau government is also facing growing calls take real action to address the legacy of residential schools, including continuing discrimination against Indigenous children across Canada, and to implement the Calls for Action.

So far, only eight of the 94 recommendations issued by the TRC five years ago, after a lengthy hearing process during which survivors of residential schools shared their experiences, have been completed, according to the Yellowhead Institute , a research center run by First Nations.

Meanwhile, back in Winnipeg, Shingoose said he will continue to advocate on behalf of other survivors of residential schools, as well as all children who never got home.

“Children who are buried in schools, on school grounds, have no voice, so I am a survivor of a residential school and I bring that voice to them,” he told Al Jazeera, adding that he also shares his truth for his three children, eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

“Canada needs to know this truth. They need to know our real history and what happened to the indigenous children of those residential schools. ”

The Family Crisis Line for survivors and families of Canadian residential schools in Canada is available 24 hours a day at 1-866-925-4419.

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