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United Nations human rights experts have called on Canada and the Catholic Church to conduct a thorough investigation after the remains of indigenous children were found in a former boarding school, as the Canadian prime minister lashed out at the church for ignoring its past crimes.
The fraternal burial of 215 indigenous children was discovered last month at Kamloops Boarding School in British Columbia, which operated from 1890 to 1978 under the auspices of the Catholic Church and then the government of Canada.
“We urge the authorities to conduct a full investigation into the circumstances and responsibilities surrounding these deaths, including a forensic examination of the remains found, and to proceed with the identification and registration of the missing children,” nine UN human rights experts said in a statement. statement on Friday.
They called on the government of Canada to conduct similar investigations to all of the country’s former boarding schools, which were created to forcibly assimilate indigenous children.
According to the statement, criminal investigations should also be launched into all allegations of suspicious deaths, as well as allegations of torture and sexual abuse of children in schools, they said.
UN experts said the criminals and harbourers who may still be alive must be brought to justice and punished, adding that it is “unthinkable” for Canada and the Vatican to leave such “heinous crimes” unaccounted for and without compensation.
Trudeau blows up the church
On Friday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called on the Catholic Church to “take charge” and publish records of Indigenous boarding schools under its leadership.
He warned that his government is ready to take “stricter measures”, possibly including lawsuits, to obtain documents that the victims’ families would require if the church did not comply.
“As a Catholic, I am deeply disappointed with the position that the Catholic Church has taken now and in recent years,” Trudeau said at a press conference.
He recalled a trip to the Vatican in May 2017, during which he asked Pope Francis for an official apology for mistreating students, as well as access to church records to help identify more than 4,100 students believed to have died of illness or malnutrition. …
“We still see resistance from the church,” Trudeau said.
When asked if the government can demand disclosure, the prime minister replied: “I think that if necessary, we will take more drastic measures.”
But he added, “Before we start suing the Catholic Church, I really hope that the religious leaders will understand that they need to get involved.”
Daniel Morrison, a lawyer and member of the Anishinaabe Nation, told Al Jazeera that at this stage, the Canadian government is expected to take action against the church.
She said there have been calls for decades to force the Roman Catholic Church to release its archives and to identify and convict all living suspects who have committed crimes against indigenous peoples.
“At this point, given the fact that the world is watching, they [the government] I really have no choice but to sue or convict the Catholic Church, ”she added.
Canada was shocked by the discovery of the remains at the school, especially since only 50 deaths were officially recorded.
The school was one of many boarding schools established a century ago for the forced assimilation of the country’s indigenous peoples.
The Church must be “ activated ”
Trudeau urged Canadian Catholics to “reach out (to their) local congregations, bishops and cardinals, and make it clear that we expect the church to step forward and take responsibility for its role in this and be there to help grieving and grieving healing , including recordings. “
“This is what … a number of other churches have done. This is what we still expect from the Catholic Church, ”he said.
“We need truth before we can talk about justice, healing and reconciliation.”
Some 150,000 Aboriginal, Inuit and Mestizo children were enrolled in 139 of these boarding schools across Canada, where students were physically and sexually abused by principals and teachers, depriving them of their culture and language.
The experience is now being blamed for the high incidence of poverty, alcoholism and domestic violence, as well as high suicide rates in indigenous communities.
In Kamloops, Tk’emlups te Secwepemc head Rosanna Casimir, who enlisted the help of the British Columbia coroner to determine student remains and cause of death, told reporters that the tribe never received any records from the Immaculate Mary Oblates who fled. school.
“We really want an apology” from the church, she said, “a public apology, not only for us, but for the whole world … demanding responsibility from the church.”
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