Mulcair demands PM ask Pope to apologize for church’s role in residential schools

Mulcair demands PM ask Pope to apologize for church’s role in residential schools

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair is calling on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to ask the Pope to apologize on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church for its involvement in Canada’s residential school system.

Mulcair made the comments in an interview with CTV’s Question Period, days ahead of Harper’s trip to Vatican City. The Prime Minister will meet with the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church, including Pope Francis, on Wednesday and Thursday.

“With all of the evidence that’s now on the table, the Vatican should issue a formal apology for the Catholic Church’s role in the residential schools. While the Prime Minister is with the Pope, he should simply ask him if he’s willing to issue that sort of an apology,” said Mulcair.

Last week, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) released its report on the residential school system. The report made 94 broad recommendations, touching on areas of child welfare, justice, health and education.

One of the recommendations called on the Pope to deliver an apology in Canada within a year of the report being issued. The TRC said the apology should resemble that of the 2010 apology issued to the Irish victims of sex abuse by priests.

Most churches involved in the residential schools have publicly apologize through their national offices, except for the Catholic Church, according to the Legacy of Hope Foundation, whose purpose is to raise awareness about the system.

According to the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), there is a reason why the Catholic Church has not apologized. It blames the decentralized structure of the Catholic community in Canada. 

It says the Catholic Church, as a whole, was not associated with the residential schools. But approximately 16 out of the 70 Catholic dioceses in Canada were, and each of them are “legally responsible” for their own actions.

However, the CCCB points out that it submitted a brief to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples in November 1993, which said: “various types of abuse experienced at some residential schools have moved us to a profound examination of conscience as a Church.”

And in 1991, the group issued a statement apologizing for the “pain, suffering and alienation that so many experienced” as a result of the residential school system.

In 2008, Harper also apologized on behalf of the Government of Canada for its role in the residential school system.

No commitment to all 94 recommendations

While Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said his party would adopt and implement all 94 recommendations from the TRC’s report, the Conservatives and NDP have not.

Mulcair defended his party’s decision to consider the recommendations in lockstep with First Nations before making any commitments.

“We’re going to sit down with First Nations. We’ll prioritize. We’ll get to the subjects that they consider most important and we’ll do it in order that they consider the most important,” said Mulcair.


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