As we posted on this site months ago, Canada’s system of residential schools were designed to “replace Indigenous values, beliefs, and understandings of the world with those of the European colonizers.” That meant converting students to Christianity. It was a form of cultural genocide.
If that sounds like something that must have occurred centuries ago, think again. The last government-funded residential school in Canada didn’t close until 1996.
On Thursday, on the grounds of the Kamloops Indian Residential School (in British Columbia), which didn’t close until 1969, the First Nation tribe announced that preliminary radar analysis had uncovered the remains of 215 children who were buried there, some as young as 3.
To be blunt about it, members of the First Nation tribe were taken to these schools by the Catholic Church in order to indoctrinate them. Students were believed to be malnourished and abused. Many were sick. The schools were often unsanitary. Rather than treat the children and help them, they were left for dead. And now, apparently, we see they were unceremoniously buried as well.
Chief Harvey McLeod, of the Upper Nicola Band, attended the school from 1966 to ’68 and recalls how he and other students would wonder what had happened to some of their peers, who stopped showing up to class.
He remembers one particular instance when they assumed a classmate had run away and made it home.
“We never knew, nor did we question … and one day, what I recall is, somebody said he died. And we left it at that,” McLeod says.
Somehow these torture chambers called schools were even worse than anyone knew. It raises another disturbing question: How many more children’s remains are buried on the grounds of other residential schools?
There’s no way to bring the children back. What government officials — and the Catholic Church — must do is use their resources to uncover the truth and take steps to make sure this never happens again. These residential faith-based schools must also be treated and taught as the indoctrination camps they were.
Reaction to the discovery was swift. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted that the news was a “painful reminder of that dark and shameful chapter of our country’s history.”
B.C. Premier John Horgan also made a statement, saying he was “horrified and heartbroken.”
“This is a tragedy of unimaginable proportions. And it is a stark example of the violence the Canadian residential school system inflicted upon Indigenous Peoples and how the consequences of these atrocities continue to this day,” Horgan said.
The Catholic Church has done this sort of thing for a long time, and not just in Canada. Mass graves of women and babies were discovered at Catholic homes in Ireland recently, too.
There are other calls for action:
[Founding director of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba Ry] Moran said the uncovering of the burial site in Kamloops highlights the need for government leaders to act on the commission’s calls to action, including the creation of a residential schools national monument in Ottawa and the creation of a statutory holiday, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, to honour survivors and victims.
“It’s very concerning we haven’t seen more progress on some of these fundamental and important calls to action,” Moran said.
It’s the least that could happen.
Pope Francis, by the way, said in 2018 that he won’t apologize for the Church’s role in these residential schools. Whatever his excuses, his refusal to do even the bare minimum tells you a lot about the moral depravity of the Church.
(Thanks to everyone for the link)