Expert: Pope Francis apologizes for forced assimilation of Indigenous children at residential schools 

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Published: 27Jul2022

The first day of Pope Francis's "penitential pilgrimage" began with a heartfelt apology delivered at the site of one of Canada's largest residential schools and ended with blessings and songs at an intimate service in the only designated Indigenous church in Canada. In a morning event in a First Nation community in central Alberta, Pope Francis apologized for members of the Catholic Church who co-operated with Canada's "devastating" policy of Indigenous residential schools. (CBC

Here are some experts from McGill University that can provide comment on this issue: 
 
Cindy Blackstock, Full Professor, School of Social Work 

“The Pope apologized for the Catholic Church’s role in residential schools. It was meaningful for some Residential School Survivors, and I am so grateful that it brought them some comfort. However, when victims must travel to Rome to ask for an apology greater scrutiny is needed to ensure the apology delivers justice for the victims and is not just a proforma release of responsibility for the offender. The Pope’s apology began by recognizing the Governor General and the Prime Minister (which are both offices arising from colonialism) before mentioning the Residential School Survivors and the children who died to whom this apology is properly addressed. It talked about the future but was light on accountability and action and peppered with requests for God to forgive the Church. The First Nations, Metis and Inuit children who attended residential schools and suffered so deeply and those who died there deserve […] more.” 

Read Cindy Blackstock’s full statement on her social media. 

Cindy Blackstock is a Full Professor in the School of Social Work and the Executive Director of First Nations Child & Family Caring Society of Canada. A member of the Gitksan First Nation with 25 years of social work experience in child protection and Indigenous children’s rights, her research interests include Indigenous theory and the identification and remediation of structural inequalities affecting First Nations children, youth and families. 

cindy.blackstock [at] mcgill.ca (English) 

Wahéhshon Shiann Whitebean (she/her), PhD Candidate, Department of Integrated Studies in Education 

“The papal visit has reignited national dialogue about the deplorable history of Indian Residential Schools, eliciting a complex emotional response from Indigenous survivors, their families and communities. Stories have power. These events present a unique opportunity to shift the narrative from apologies and healing to accountability and justice for the Church’s transgressions against Indigenous peoples. It is time to recognize the legacy and lasting effects of trauma resulting from institutions such as Indian Residential Schools and Indian Day Schools.” 

Wahéhshon is a traditional Wolf Clan member of the Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) Nation at Kahnawà:ke and a PhD Candidate at the Department of Integrated Studies in Education and. Her doctoral research examines historical and contemporary Indigenous educational systems and institutions, with a focus on Indian Day School experiences. Wahéhshon is a descendant of Indian Residential School and Indian Day School survivors.  

wahehshon.whitebean [at] mail.mcgill.caWahehson [at] outlook.com (English) 

Contact Information

Contact: 
Claire Loewen
Organization: 
Media Relations, McGill University
Email: 
claire.loewen [at] mcgill.ca
Mobile Phone: 
438-837-3735
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