Pope Francis Apologizes to Former Students of Canada's Residential Schools

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    The Facts

    • On Fri., Pope Francis apologized for the Catholic Church's role in the abuse that former students faced at Canada's state-funded residential schools amid a visit to the Vatican from a group of Indigenous people.

    • More than 150k native Canadians attended the Christian schools between the 1880s and 1997, in an attempt to assimilate them into mainstream societies.


    The Spin

    Narrative A

    This historic apology - alongside the Church in Canada taking responsibility for its part in the tragedy - will help address the ongoing trauma and legacy of Indigenous Canadians. The Catholic Church contributed to the suppression of Indigenous languages and cultures, and to the atrocities committed against those forced into the residential schools. A formal apology was long overdue.

    Narrative B

    While the anger is understandable, the large number of fatalities has been known long before now. The Catholic Church has already claimed responsibility for its part in the atrocities - and continues to do so - by raising funds, hosting hundreds of reconciliation meetings, and even former Pope Benedict offering a public apology in 2009. There is no lack of remorse, but a disconnect on how to move forward.

    Narrative C

    The suspected discovery of unmarked graves last summer was just that: suspected. Yet it led to a precipitous reaction by politicians, the media, and the general public. The site was declared a "mass grave", Canadians were encouraged not to celebrate Canada day, churches were vandalized, and anti-Catholic sentiment spread. Excavation is needed to confirm the preliminary findings, and this has yet to actually be done. The country deserves answers.


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