A child’s red dress hangs on a stake near the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School June 6, 2021. The remains of 215 children, some as young as 3 years old, were found at the site in May in Kamloops, British Columbia. Pope Francis expressed his sorrow at the discovery of the remains at the school, which was run from 1890-1969 by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. (CNS photo/Jennifer Gauthier, Reuters)
On Sunday, June 6, Pope Francis said at his weekly Angelus address: “I follow with pain the news coming from Canada about the shocking discovery of the remains of 215 children.”
He was referring to the May 27 announcement by the chief of Canada’s Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation that the remains of 215 children had been found in a mass grave at the long-closed Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia.
The school had been part of a large network of government schools for indigenous children that were run by various religious bodies, some of them Catholic, some Protestant, beginning in the 19th century. The Kamloops school, run by the Oblates of Mary Immaculata, closed in 1978.
Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, vowed to fully investigate the deaths as far as possible, calling the period in which the schools operated “a shameful chapter of our country’s history.”
But were the Indian Residential Schools really as sinister as the Canadian government and media say? And was Justin Trudeau’s request, so far unmet, of an apology from Pope Francis for Catholics running the schools a century ago, really called for?
In the following article, writer David Warren takes a rare, objective look at the schools, and reports on both what school alumni have said, and about the actual state of affairs in remote parts of Canada in the 19th and early 20th centuries.