Indigenous people hail Pope’s remarks on residential school genocide


A survivor of Canada’s residential schools welcomes Pope Francis’ acknowledgment that what happened at these institutions amounted to genocide, but thinks he should have said so before leaving Canada.

Ken Young, who is the former Manitoba regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), believes that if the Pope did not deliver this acknowledgment during his visit to Canada last week, it is perhaps because Canadian Catholic officials did not inform him properly.

The pontiff issued an apology several times during the week for abuses at boarding schools, but did not use the word ‘genocide’ until reporters asked him on his plane back to the Vatican. he accepted that members of the Church participated in a genocide.

Francis said the reason he didn’t utter the word during his apology visit was because he thought « genocide » was a technical term.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission called residential schools a form of cultural genocide when it released its final report in 2015.

In a telephone interview Monday in Winnipeg, Ken Young recalled that many people do not understand what the word »genocide » means in the sense of the UN convention.

For his part, Kenneth Deer, of the Kahnawake Mohawk reservation near Montreal, believes the pope’s statement aboard the papal plane likely is an accurate indication of how he felt. “I found his statement incredible, I’m glad he said it. I wish he had said it while he was in Canada rather than over the ocean.

“I think what you heard from the Pope at that time on the plane is how he really feels; all other statements were prepared. »

Last year, after the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation in British Columbia announced that ground-penetrating radar had detected what are believed to be the remains of 215 Indigenous children at a former Kamloops residential school , Toronto Metropolitan University law professor Pamela Palmater said the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide applies to Canada’s actions.

She pointed out that the convention stipulates that genocide is committed when members of a group are killed, subjected to serious physical or mental harm, put in conditions to destroy them, become victims of measures intended to prevent births or see their children forcibly transferred to another group.

University of Guelph professor David MacDonald said at the time that the forcible transfer of children, which is part of the UN convention, happened in the residential school system in Canada.

Kenneth Deer argues that the pope’s acknowledgment was important given that many people disputed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s findings that residential schools were cultural genocide. « Now we have the pope, the head of the Catholic Church, saying yes, it’s genocide, that’s why it’s very important. »

As for Ken Young, he does not think there is a difference between « genocide » and « cultural genocide ».


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