A tragic fact has lately struck British Columbia’s First Nations. Reports tell of a ground-penetrating scan that has exposed the remains of 215 children in the surroundings of what used to be “Kamloops Indian Residential School” in the Canadian west.
The children were often abused physically and sexually, and many – obviously – paid their lives just because they were of cultures that differed from the colonisers’ western, European cultures.
Finding the children’s remains shows the level of criminality that the first Nations were faced with decades ago at the Indian residential schools, which were run by Catholic churches that separated the children from their culture and standards and re-educated them in accordance with the prevailing culture.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took to Twitter to say that the discovery “broke his heart” and that it was a “painful reminder and a tragedy.” Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett confirmed Trudeau’s message, announcing the government would offer support for the affected families and First Nations so that “they may heal while their lost ones are honoured.”
Back in 2008, Ottawa made a formal apology for what the “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” described as “cultural genocide”, with $1.9 billion paid to former students in settlement.
Pope Francis said he was “in deep pain” for the discovery and called for respecting the culture and rights of indigenous peoples. During his weekly sermon, which was attended by tourists and visitors of “Saint Peter’s Square”, the Pope encouraged Canadian political and clerical leaders to show “willful collaboration” to highlight the incident and to pursue reconciliation and cure.
The Pope also showed “sympathy for the Canadians shocked by the tragic news.” He, however, did not make a direct apology for the incident – like some Canadians had asked. Trudeau, in return, said the Catholic Church had to bear responsibility for its role in running many of those residential schools.
So when will politicians and church officials stop blaming one another for this heinous tragedy and deal with the human cause responsibly? Will they collaborate seriously and effectively to heal the wounds of the indigenous peoples and prevent similar crimes against any other peoples of the world?