Canadian Residential Schools and Fallout for the Catholic Church

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This summer saw some of the greatest public outrages in Canadian History. The Canadian public continues to admonish the Catholic Church’s refusal to offer an official apology for its role in running the residential schools across Canada. The bodies of over 1300 Indigenous children have been found in unmarked graves across Canada. These gravesites are at residential schools where Indigenous children were abused, neglected, and killed for over 100 years. The schools were run by the government and various church bodies.

Catholic Church Faces Backlash Over Silence

What started with the discovery of the remains of 215 children at a BC residential school in Kamloops has resulted in some calling for the Catholic Church to lose its status as a charitable organization, along with Indigenous leaders and political leaders alike calling for an official apology from Pope Francis.

The federal government of Canada has issued a formal apology to the survivors and families of those children who died under horrendous conditions at the government and church-run schools. Every other church organization involved in the residential school deaths has also issued an official apology for the horrors suffered by Indigenous children.

The Catholic Church, however, continues to defy calls from the public for a formal apology, despite having issued formal apologies on behalf of the Church of Ireland over the “grave sins” committed in South America. Meanwhile, even the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, has issued a public apology for the devastating history of the Catholic Church and criticized the church-run schools across the country. He also criticized the religious leaders for taking too long to release their records on other Church-run Indigenous residential schools across Canada. He also warned church religious leaders that the government would be taking stronger measures if they failed to release the requested documents.

Public Says Pope’s Statement is Not Enough

The only statement from Pope Francis was the following: “I follow with sorrow the news that arrives from Canada about the upsetting discovery of the remains of 215 children. I join with the Catholic Church in Canada in expressing closeness to the Canadian People traumatized by the shocking news. This sad discovery increases the awareness of the sorrow and sufferings of the past. May the political and religious authorities continue to collaborate with determination to shed light on this sad affair and to commit to a path of healing.”

There was no direct mention of the Indigenous peoples of Canada, their loss, or the Catholic Churches’ part in the atrocities that the Pope expresses such sorrow for. Indigenous leaders and community members alike continue to express frustration with the continued defiance of the church to offer a true apology.

Survivor Compensation Spent by Church Organization on “Expenses”

Additionally, a Catholic Church organization that was designed to compensate residential school survivors spent $6.46 million dollars on “expenses”, and returned $600 thousand to church organizations. At the end of the day, healing initiatives only received $18.6 million of the $24.2 million allocated for residential school survivors.

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