ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE — Pope Francis on Saturday said the treatment of Indigenous people in Canada amounted to a genocide, after a six-day trip where he apologized to survivors of abuse at Catholic-run schools.
“I didn’t say the word [in Canada] because it didn’t come to my mind, but I did describe the genocide. And I asked for forgiveness for this process which was genocide. I condemned it too,” he told reporters on board his plane returning to Rome.
“Taking away children, changing the culture, changing the mentality, changing the traditions, changing a race, let’s put it that way, a whole culture.
“Yes, genocide is [a] technical word… But I have described what is, indeed, a genocide. ”
During his trip, the pope apologized for the “evil” inflicted on Indigenous communities at Canada’s residential schools, where children were sent as part of a policy of forced assimilation.
He cited the “cultural destruction” and the “physical, verbal, psychological and spiritual abuse” of children over decades.
From the late 1800s to the 1990s, Canada’s government sent about 150,000 children into 139 residential schools run by the Church, where they were cut off from their families, language and culture.
Many were physically and sexually abused, and thousands are believed to have died of disease, malnutrition or neglect.
Since May 2021, more than 1,300 unmarked graves have been discovered at the sites of the former schools, sending shockwaves throughout Canada — which has slowly begun to acknowledge this long, dark chapter in its history.