Pope Francis Visits Canada: Live News & Updates

Credit…Vatican media

TORONTO. The last church boarding schools in Canada that were forced to attend by Indigenous children and where many of them were abused closed in the 1990s. Since then, the Canadian government and First Nations communities have worked to repair the severe damage they suffered, which continues to reverberate today.

Here are five important points leading up to the apology Pope Francis is due to make to indigenous communities on Monday.

A brutal system of abuse in the name of assimilation.

The Indian Act of 1876 allowed the government of Canada to establish boarding schools, most of which were run by the Roman Catholic Church and intended to assimilate indigenous children by erasing their culture and languages.

They were punished for speaking indigenous languages, braiding their hair, or practicing a religion other than what was taught in school.

For more than a century, roughly 150,000 students have attended some 130 schools, many of which have been sexually abused, malnourished and ill due to poor conditions. Many died or did not return home.

As student numbers dwindled, the last of the schools closed in 1996, ushering in a period of national reckoning, including official investigations into Canada’s treatment of indigenous peoples.

Massive class action lawsuit for former students.

As a result of a lawsuit by former students of the schools, Canadian courts have approved a wide-ranging class action agreement that paid more than CAD 3.2 billion to the approximately 28,000 survivors, according to a 2021 report. reportt by an independent committee overseeing the settlement.

In addition to financial compensation, the settlement also included funding for other initiatives such as memorials and other commemorative projects, as well as a program that provides mental health services to survivors and their families.

The National Commission brings a reckoning with a dark past.

The National Truth and Reconciliation Commission, established in 2007 as part of a settlement agreement, held meetings in seven cities across the country to, among other things, hear firsthand stories from indigenous people who were sent to boarding schools.

At local hearings, survivors shared their stories of Catholic monks who raped children under 10 and hungry students who stole apples from orchards to eat.

In 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a formal government apology to the Indigenous communities.

Evidence of unmarked graves found in boarding schools.

Last year, Tk’emlups from Secwepemc First Nation in British Columbia said they had found evidence unmarked graves of 215 children on the grounds of the Kamloop Indian Boarding School, which was once the largest in Canada, it had about 500 students.

The ground-penetrating radar discovery shocked Canadians and reignited a national discourse about the horrors of boarding schools.

Several other communities have also announced preliminary findings about possible unmarked graves on the site of the former boarding school. Last June Cowessess First Nation claimed to have found 751 possible unmarked graves at the site of a school in Saskatchewan.

A trip to Italy and an apology from the pope.

In spring a delegation of indigenous leaders from Canada went to the Vatican and received a long-awaited apology from Pope Francis.

“I am ashamed—sadness and shame—for the role that Catholics have played in the abuse you have been subjected to and in disrespect for your identity, your culture, and even your spiritual values.” Francis said. He also promised to go to Canada and make a personal apology.

Jan Austin provided a report from Ottawa.