Justin Trudeau to seek formal apology from Pope for church's role in residential schools


Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed he will seek a formal apology from Pope Francis for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in the residential schools controversy, a day after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission made public its final report into the legacy of the schools.

The commission has called upon the Pope to apologize to residential school survivors and their families for the Catholic Church’s role “in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children in Catholic-run residential schools.”



So…what was the Catholic Church’s role in this residential schools controversy?
The article doesn’t say.



The residential school story is one of the saddest chapters in Canadian history. 10’s of thousands, if not more, aboriginal children were removed (forcibly in many cases) from their homes and sent to boarding schools to be “educated”. Education included trying to wipe out their cultural heritage and language and make them into good little ‘white kids’, and there was rampant physical and sexual abuse.

These schools were mandated by the government (yes, the government was complicit in the whole affair) who in turn used churches (Catholic and Protestant) to run them. I’m not sure of the exact numbers, but I believe the Catholic church ran the majority of the schools.

In 2009 Pope Benedict did acknowledge ‘sorrow’ for the role of the Catholic Church in the schools, but it looks like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Canadian government are looking for more formal apology and acknowledgment.

From Wikipedia



Seems like the government has apologized for their role in them and provided monetary reparations as well totaling close to 1.6 billion dollars. And that the Anglican Church in Canada, which was the second largest administrator of these schools has also apologized in full for their role in the affair with the Primate issuing a full apology back in 1993 which declared the entire affair was a mistake. The RCMP has also issued a full apology for their role in the schools and their actions as well.

I suspect Trudeau is looking for a similar full apology from Pope Francis on behalf of the Catholic Church. To date the Vatican has expressed sorrow, but the statements have been a tad evasive not saying fully and unequivocally that the schools were a mistake and that they apologize for their role in them.


This from the government that mandates sexual perversions be taught in all schools.

Give me a break.


The apology is long overdue from the Vatican. The abuses that occurred were of such a scale and severity to ruin lives.

In Canada, education policy is set at the provincial level, so Trudeau is not responsible for objectionable curricula (though he campaigned heavily with, and is supported politically by, the premier responsible).

That being said, Trudeau’s public positions pit him opposite the Church on many issues of conscience as a professed Catholic. I would be curious to see if excommunication is explored in the Vatican on the basis of his forbidding any politicians against abortion from serving as members of his government.


Are you serious? Do you have a source link you can post here?


Or of his caucus.

That was a deplorable policy on his part. It’s also gravely sinful, I have no doubt. I don’t believe he can worthily present himself for Communion.

However, I see nothing in canon law that can be used as a basis for charging him with a canonical crime, and therefore punishing him with excommunication. His policy is scandalous, but from the looks of it, not (canonically) criminal.

I am not, however, a canon lawyer.


The article doesn’t say when all of this happened. Presumably it was some time ago. Putting Indian children in boarding schools happened in the U.S. too, during the 19th Century.

It’s hard to know how much of the bad stuff (other than sexual abuse, of course) happened because of insoucience toward Indians and how much of it was due to being in the 19th Century. Most of us today would recoil from returning to those conditions, even the best of them.

According to the article, the objective was to turn them into “white” kids. That’s not very likely, since it would have been genetically impossible. What, presumably, they’re talking about it teaching them ways that were typical of those of white people at the time; reading, writing, science, perhaps farming, undoubtedly religion. And, one assumes, the other side of the coin is that they were not encouraged, perhaps even discouraged, from carrying on Indian ways like hunter/gathering, warring on other tribes, and worshiping whatever gods they worshiped.

I don’t know enough about the settling of Canada to surmise, but in the U.S. the truth was that there wasn’t much alternative. The conditions for continuation of “Indian ways” were gone, and permanently for the most part.

But it was abrupt, for sure, compared to the history of other peoples. It took the Gauls at least two centuries to become fully Romanized. The Teutons, other than those along the Rhine, possibly took longer for their culture to change from hunter/gathering and endless war to settled agriculture and at least some degree of social order. The Japanese, of course, completely changed their economic system and much of their culture in a half century.

But abrupt change is hard. As we know, the Samurai class in Japan had it very hard when that social and economic order was abolished.


If Trudeau is not against abortion, he supports it and he supports it publicly and strongly by refusing to allow those who support life in his government.


It seems this happened well into the 20th century in Canada. Not just the 19th.


Perhaps one of the greatest ironies of the Residential Schools is that it was a policy based upon a liberal mindset given the day and age of its origin.

The consideration was that without this form of refinement aboriginal children, who were often starving and facing numerous substance abuse issues at home, would remain ever behind their colonial kin. Keeping in mind this was during an era when few or no social safety nets were in place and the suffering of these children pulled at the heartstrings of many concerned Canadians.

After all, the contrary opinion of the day was that the aboriginal children should be allowed to starve in order to make way for the more advanced society setting itself up in their stead.

Further, during this same timeframe children of largely European decent were often treated in a similar manner to that experienced by many of the complaintants. Physical abuse for dicipline was fairly widespread…our filtered view of this situation is gravely lacking in objectivity.

So it is with some consternation that I put to you the options faced by our predessesors:

Educate the children, even if it might be against their will (keeping in mind that many families voluntarily allowed their children’s enrollment).


Watch them suffer even unto death?

Naturally this may be viewed as a false dichotomy by today’s standards, but in that era it was not very far from the main principle options seemingly available.

I have often observed that the residential school situation was truly little different to the Irish Potato Famine in its general consideration of how to properly manage two disparate classes of people. In both instances the common liberal view was towards a forced education (preventing the Irish from speaking their native tongue was one of these measures), countered by a less caring solution of allowing starvation to thin the ranks of the less competitive. The only chief difference is that my ancestors were also provided a third option: namely to flee Ireland in search of a better opportunity abroad.

In neither situation ought the Vatican be forced into a symbolic and entirely meaningless gesture in the way of an apology. The best of intentions may have been corrupted in individual cases by certain given elements within each organization, but on the whole such abuses paled in large scale when juxtaposed against the tragedies visited upon many of these children by their own families. Naturally exceptions will exist in either situation…just as naturally no one has thought to interview the many native Canadians who have spoken favorably of their time at these schools. Crediting the religious who taught them with supplying them with the means to leave their reserve and seek out an improved existence.

I have read and heard speak of some of these positive accounts…by some of those who had lived through them…they contrast favorably to the accounts supplied by some of my older relatives as to how sufferable life was in general during that time…


Thanks for the clarification.

Regret is the best the Vatican can offer. Given everyone even remotely responsible for the abuse is long dead, there’s no way an apology can have any meaning. It would be as silly as an Asian teenager apologizing for the Japanese during World War II.

Anyways, like the example you gave, the Canadian government is doing atrocious things in the here and now, and can hardly stand on a high horse and demand an apology for abuses that happened more than a century ago when such horrible actions are being done with the full support of government.


Excellent post.


What part of the 20th Century and what were the numbers at any point in time? The article doesn’t say.

But let’s say it continued well into the 20th Century. What would have been the advantage (sexual abuse aside) to them of Indian children having no education at all? I understand the romanticism some attach to (the varied) “Indian way of life”. But was that way of life viable?


You are talking about a time frame from the the mid 19th century to the late 20th century. This is not the first I’ve heard of this, the political party i am a member of has raised this issue a few times in Ireland when talking about the Magdalene Laundries there which arouse similar bad feeling at times back in Ireland.It was raised there as a point of comparison to show the problems of religious organisations becoming overly involved in the state. I’ve also been in contact over the years when younger with members of AIM and others who although not Canadian have talked about it with me online and in person when younger. i imagine like the Laundries the actual background is probably fairly complicated and hard to boil down to simplistic narratives of Catholic Church bad/Indians good or Indians bad/Catholic Church Good. It does seem from what I do know of it that some gross mistakes and poor decisions were made that were lamentable but I see we have some Canadians here who can no doubt tell you a lot more and will be better informed.


We know that. It’s also sinful, perhaps mortally so.

But for excommunication, we need something in canon law. Merely supporting abortion does not make one guilty of a crime that merits excommunication, even if public.


Looks like the residential schools (as opposed to the day schools) began in about 1847, peaked in about 1931, ceased being compulsory in 1948 and closed entirely in 1996. Some tribes protested the closings, and two of the residential schools were turned over to the tribes to run.


I never suggested that he be ex-communicated. Why would they while Nancy Pelosi continues to vote for abortion and will continue voting for it and has no qualms with receiving Holy Communion.

As a public figure PM Trudeau’s spiritual advisor would be well aware of his public support for abortion and should counsel and admonish accordingly. Perhaps they have, we are not privy to those details.



As I say I’m sure the actual story behind the events is more complicated than ‘naughty Catholic Church’. I am definitely reminded of the whole furore over the Magdalene Laundries back home. Now I think they were problematic but I also note that the history of the period has been revised with regards to them and that protest groups like 1 in 4* in Ireland latched onto the whole issue.

i have a funny feeling the narrative here is similarly complicated, interweaved with social changes and not quite so black and white as all that.

*This is a rather lovely little group back in Ireland that maintains that 1 in 4 Catholic kids were abused by clergy. In case anyone is missing it I am using the term lovely in a sarcastic manner with regards to them.

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