Pope Francis in Canada (July 24 to July 30)

A call for compensation for indigenous children who were sent to boarding schools – Catholic church bears serious guilt

On the occasion of Pope Francis’ six-day visit to Canada – the “Pilgrimage of Penance”, which starts on Sunday – the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) called on him to advocate for compensation for children of indigenous families who suffered mistreatment in boarding schools in Canada. “A personal apology to the victims of the so-called ‘Residential Schools’ would be appropriate, but it would not be enough to make up for the serious guilt of the Catholic church, for the deaths and the suffering of so many indigenous children. There should also be a financial compensation – similar to the Catholic church’s compensation for victims of abuse in Germany,” stated Regina Sonk, STP expert on indigenous peoples, in Göttingen on Thursday.

In Canada, more than 150,000 children were torn from their families and brought to boarding schools in the period from the middle of the 19th century to 1996. More than 3,200 pupils did not survive the mistreatment and the sexual assaults. 70 percent of the 130 schools were run by the Catholic church.

“What happened back then was terrible: Little children were systematically torn from their families, were brought up in loveless homes, beaten, mistreated, and psychologically tortured – allegedly as a means to assimilate them. Most of the children who did not survive this were buried in anonymous graves, and their parents were not even informed,” Sonk added. “The Catholic church must be seen as guilty in this regard – and it supported the state’s system of oppression of the First Nations, the Métis, and the Inuit. Now, the Church should pay compensation money too.”

Many indigenous people are still suffering from the trauma from the Residential Schools. “Survivors, parents, and family members are still not granted access to the Church’s documents regarding these schools,” Sonk criticized. “For them, it is almost impossible to get to the bottom of what happened to their dead children – or to find out the names of those who were responsible. Perpetrators who are still alive must be punished!”

Regina Sonk is available for further questions: r.sonk@gfbv.de or +49 551 49906-31