Pope meets with representatives from Canadian aboriginal communities

April 30, 2009

VATICAN CITY, 29 APR 2009 (VIS) - At the end of today’s general audience, the Pope received a delegation of representatives from Canadian aboriginal communities, to whom he expressed his concern for aboriginal peoples in Canada who continue to suffer from the impact of the former Indian Residential Schools, according to a communique issued by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The meeting will be attended by Phil Fontaine, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, and Archbishop Vernon James Weisgerber, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, accompanied by representatives from Catholic dioceses and communities in the country.

In the late nineteenth century the federal government established residential schools for Canadian aboriginal children. The schools were administered by Catholic organisations and by other Christian Churches and communities, and financed by the Canadian government. “The number of students who attended residential schools is estimated at 100,000. These children were cut off from their families and forced to suppress their language, religion and traditional way of life. … As well as being subjected to the process of cultural purging, some children were also the victims of sexual and physical abuse”, says the communique.

On 11 June 2008 Stephen Harper, prime minister of Canada, and the Canadian government made a formal apology to the former students of residential schools in a special assembly at the House of Commons in Ottawa.

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