Pope must apologise for abuse of indigenous Canadians

Pope must apologise for abuse of indigenous Canadians January 5, 2016

Ancient papal bulls gave European explorers carte blanche ‘to invade, capture, vanquish, and subdue all Saracens, pagans, and other enemies of Christ, to put them into perpetual slavery, and to take away all their possessions and property’.
According to the Economist, attention is now being focused on the 15th century bulls, collectively known as the Doctrine of Discovery, because the Canadian government wants the Pope to apologise for the role played by the Catholic Church in the systematic abuse of indigenous children.

For more than a century the government of Canada ran a system of residential schools for these children, taking them from their parents –by force if need be – and putting them into institutions where many were physically and sexually abused.
Although this was a government programme, between 1883 and 1996 churches ran the 139 residential schools. Priests and nuns of the Roman Catholic church controlled the majority of them.
Seven years ago Stephen Harper, then Conservative Prime Minister, apologised on the Government’s behalf to the 150,000 children and their families for the brutal attempt to wipe out their cultures.
Then on December 15, Justin Trudeau, the new Liberal Prime Minister, apologised again, saying the “abhorrent” system represented:

One of the darkest chapters in Canadian history.

And he called for an apology from the Pope himself.
No words of regret, though, have been expressed by the Church’s national body in Canada. It has refused to apologise on grounds that a decentralised structure leaves this duty to individual dioceses. Some, however, have apologised.
But Catholic foot-dragging over payment of their agreed share of the $1.4 billion settlement of a class-action lawsuit by former students prompted the federal government to take the dioceses to court.
Said the Economist:

This would seem egregious enough to merit a papal pronouncement; Mr Trudeau is speaking up now because of a promise he made during the recent election campaign to implement all 94 recommendations of the truth-and-reconciliation commission set up as part of the settlement agreement. Its final report was delivered on December 15th.

By 2014, commission had determined that more than 4,000 of the school children had died in residential schools that failed to keep them safe from fires, protected from abusers, and healthy from deadly disease.
That figure was based on partial federal government records, and commission officials expected the number to rise as its researchers got their hands in future months on much more complete files.

Residential school students at confirmation class at St John’s Indian Residential School in Wabasca, Alta. Handout/Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Residential school students at confirmation class at St John’s Indian Residential School in Wabasca, Alta. Handout/Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Trudeau may have some luck getting papal action on recommendation “58”, which calls on Pope Francis to visit Canada and apologise to former students, their families and communities for:

The Roman Catholic Church’s role in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children in Catholic-run residential schools.

The Economist said that Pope Francis seems open to acknowledging the church’s past sins. He has apologised to the victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests in Ireland and asked forgiveness during a trip to Bolivia last July for the church’s role in the sins of colonialism.
Where Trudeau will run into greater difficulty is implementing recommendation “45”. It calls for a new royal proclamation (Canada is a constitutional monarchy) that among other things would repudiate two concepts based on the 15th-century papal bulls.
This, explained the Economist, is “much trickier ground”. The 15th-century bulls crept into national and international law and underlie the legal existence of English-speaking settler states such as Canada, the US and Australia.
Some indigenous groups have long called for the Vatican to repudiate the offending bulls. Some theologians suggest this might have been done in 1537, though the proof is hazy. Those advocating a repudiation say the doctrine is still very much alive.
A group of Canadian and American native chiefs are planning to march to Rome from Paris in May to petition the Pope in person. It is unclear what the legal impact would be if either the Pope or Trudeau publicly repudiated the concepts.
The Economist concluded:

Neither seems likely. The Pope’s speech in Bolivia provided a perfect opportunity to do so if he was so inclined. He will have another chance if he accepts the invitation of the Quebec government to visit the French-speaking province in 2017 on the 375th anniversary of the founding of Montreal. (The Prime Minister’s office has yet to issue an invite.) But the last word from the Vatican is that a trip to Canada is not currently contemplated.

• Top picture shows First Nations activists taking part in the Walk for Reconciliation in Vancouver, BC, in September 2013. Photo: Darrel Dyck/The Canadian Press/AP. Source Aljazeera America.
Hat tip: Dave

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  • Bill

    Keep the pope out of Canada … waste of money.
    What are these bulls? Some kind of laws or what? Are they like papal concordats?
    Either way what is the problem in just squashing them and making new laws to rid Canada of papal influence and seize rcc assets.
    The vatican is a criminal state. So just change the law. Come on Canada push the pope and the rcc away. Change the laws and start a revolution to rid the world of the rcc. That is much better than a meaningless papal apology.

  • Broga

    We had some imaginative ideas, participated in by priests, for “helping” indigenous people. One was to giver them blankets impregnated with plague. The native people had no immunity to these diseases.

  • AgentCormac

    Getting institutions such as the loathsome rcc to apologise to First Nations people for the wrongs they inflicted is all tied in with a movement called Idle No More. Worth checking out if you’re interested in that kind of thing.

  • Pingback: Pope must apologise for abuse of indigenous Canadians | SecularNews.Org()

  • Cali Ron

    I’m not sure what exactly the 15th century bulls are, but they sound like a lot of bull shit. Seems silly to adhere to 600 year old religious laws when the country isn’t a theocracy. Laws can be changed and I’m pretty sure Canada would still be a country even without the bulls and there supposed legal justification for their settler state existence. Didn’t stop the US.
    And I’m a little confused by the term “constitutional monarchy”. This would imply that Canada is ruled by a monarch, but with a constitution. The term seems as outdated and not relevant as the queen mum herself. Will the UK and it’s prodigies ever rid themselves of the monarchy. The monarchs wealth was taken from the people over many centuries and frankly they should be forced to give it all back. Castles, real estate and royal gems should all be the peoples. They are all on the government dole and should be cut off and told to get a real job.
    Or maybe as an American I just can’t appreciate a powerless, but very expensive monarch.
    @AC: I appreciate First Nations desire to be recognized and wrongs from the past righted, but what would an apology from the RCC be worth?

  • Newspaniard

    Another bunch of the permanently offended queueing for compensation. Sounds very similar to the UK MP who had to apologize for something he said 30 years a go. GIVE ME STRENGTH!
    By the way I see the Irish pastor was acquitted. Apart from the fact that he shouldn’t have ever been taken to court. “NO-ONE has the right NOT to be offended” to paraphrase the judge. And well-said he!

  • barriejohn

    Newspaniard: I disagree. Everyone has the right to be offended, but it is not a crime to offend them!
    The Canadians and Americans seem unaware that their countries actually belong to the Vatican. John “Lackland” signed away the rights to them in 1213:

  • Broga

    @Cali Ron: “Or maybe as an American I just can’t appreciate a powerless, but very expensive monarch.”
    She is certainly expensive – grotesquely so – but far from powerless. She wields her power in secret. The Prime Minister has to turn up once a week and give an account of what “her” government is up to. We don’t know what he says or what she says. There was a furore recently because the new leader of the opposition refused to kneel before her when he became a Privy Councillor.
    We have had a look at what Prince Charles, our next king, says. Under the Freedom of Information Act, and after much blocking, we saw some of the letters with which he bombards cabinet ministers. These cover his pet projects but I suspect his more controversial wishes e.g. make homeopathy part of the NHS, are still secret. We know he is an enthusiast for fox hunting which 80% of the population oppose.

  • jay

    @Broga.. What I have seen is that it was Amherst and the British military. Perhaps priests were involved, but I haven’t seen that documented.
    Nonetheless, this is more madness, demanding a meaningless apology for something over six centuries ago.

  • L.Long

    “Ancient papal bulls gave European explorers carte blanche ‘to invade, capture, vanquish, and subdue all Saracens, pagans, and other enemies of Christ, to put them into perpetual slavery, and to take away all their possessions and property’.”
    And the RCC needs to apologize??? WHY??? What do these people think religion is all about??? MAny problems will be solved in Africa by the RCC saying condoms are good, BUT that is NOT what it is about. The RCC acted exactly right according to their moral code…..Wise Up!! They are demons as are all religions! DEAL!!!

  • Vanity Unfair

    A papal bull is a declaration that carries the pope’s seal (bulla) and is binding on RCs.
    Henry VIII declared himself head of the church in England but remained a Catholic. Edward VI continued the title. Mary I relinquished the title to the pope. Elizabeth I reclaimed it and declared the country Protestant. At that point, it can be argued, papal authority in England and later Great Britain and the UK ceased so the bulls in question are of no value as far as this country and its second and third empires are concerned.
    In 1688, the Glorious Revolution, followed by the Bill of Rights and the Act of Succession made it illegal for a Catholic to become head of state.
    If memory serves, the bulls declared all new discoveries as terra nullius, i.e. nobody’s land. They did not ask the opinion of the inhabitants. The New World went to Spain and the Old World to Portugal. The Portuguese immediately ignored this and claimed Brazil while the Spanish took a fancy to parts of the East Indies. Thus the agreement was violated anyway. It obviously had no effect on England/GB/UK as settlements of the second empire from Cabot onwards came under Protestant control.
    This is highly condensed and the counter-arguments would be even more so. I must read the Economist article.
    The real problem is of government incompetence and clerical malfeasance.

  • Vanity Unfair

    To Cali Ron:
    Elizabeth II is queen of the UK and fifteen other countries, classed as realms here: http://www.royal.gov.uk/MonarchAndCommonwealth/Commonwealthmembers/MembersoftheCommonwealth.aspx
    There are fourteen colonies, now called Dependent Territories or the fag end of empire depending on taste. see the map on p.10 here: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/12249/ot-wp-0612.pdf
    All colonies on being granted independence had to have a written constitution. The irony was not noticed by the UK politicians. Some chose to retain the UK sovereign as head of state (but can always change their mind) and so became constitutional monarchies. Others chose to elect their own. Some of the elected heads decided that one election was enough.
    “O wad some Power the giftie gie us
    To see oursels as ithers see us! ”
    Robert Burns: To a Louse, On Seeing One On A Lady’s Bonnet, At Church
    Nothing personal: it just seemed apt.

  • AgentCormac

    @Cali Ron
    I appreciate First Nations desire to be recognized and wrongs from the past righted, but what would an apology from the RCC be worth?
    I guess only those whose culture and traditions were destroyed, their women disappered and children taken from them to be ‘converted’ could answer that one truthfully. But if I was in their shoes, I reckon any admission of guilt by the rcc might feel like a victory as it is so, so seldom given.

  • Cali Ron

    @AC: Point taken. I’m wondering what the RCC could do today to make up for lost land and culture, not to mention lost lives. Monetary compensation seems obvious, but money and an “I’m sorry for what they did” still come up short on the ledger. In America we have given some of the3 tribes casinos which allows them to get money from fellow Americans, but not all tribes are recognized, there is much infighting over the money and it wasw the federal government that took from them so gambling profits hardly seems the right response.
    @Vanity Unfair: Thanks for the brief, but informative history lesson. In America our history textbooks offer a sanitized, brief and patriotic history of
    America, but virtually nothing per-revolution. Also, virtually nothing about the UK except a few criticisms to justify our revolution. It is a good example of why religion should be kept out of politics and law. I liked the quote, but I’m still wondering why they would choose to keep a monarchy of any type if they didn’t have to. I image a more thorough review of the history and details might explain it. Personally, I’m offended by the idea of monarchies. I think the preferred end to a monarchy is villagers with pitchforks and the death of the royals. Extreme maybe, but then who made them royals anyway? Fairies?

  • barriejohn

    Vanity Unfair/Cali Ron et al: Treaty of Tordesillas (1494). Pope draws line on map. Everything to the west goes to Spain; everything to the east to Portugal. Amen. Hallelujah. Everyone’s happy. God’s will be done!
    (PS Same thing happened later in the East Indies – Treaty of Saragoza.)

  • Cali Ron

    Just reread my last comments and must apologize for the many typos. Being somewhat OCD I hate that, but was pressed for time. I googled constitutional monarchies and was surprised how many countries have a monarch. Basing a countries ruler (or whatever you want to call it) on heredity still seems ridiculous to me, whether they have “real” power or not. All forms of government are flawed, but I believe in humanity and individual freedom and no person should be in control of another without some form of consent, whether it be by vote or a chosen representative.
    barriejohn: I read the link you posted (Truth). It was a lot of really deep stuff, but in the end every action concerning states by the pope or other religious figure was based on their belief in powers given by god, but god doesn’t exists and the people who lived on the lands were never even taken into consideration, so I am calling bullshit on all that rot. Reality: whomever has the power has the say and all those past treaties, pacts, bulls or whatever are just historical footnotes. Governmental power is either given by the people or taken from the people, god and DNA have nothing to do with it. Ultimately I control my destiny, not god or any other man.

  • barriejohn

    Cali Ron: The internet is awash with conspiracy theories – all claiming to be “the truth”. The real truth is that no nation recognizes treaties or agreements when they are no longer in their best interests, and that’s the end of it, so people can wave pieces of paper around until they are blue in the face and it doesn’t make a scrap of difference (just look at Hitler’s pact with Soviet Russia). When we were kids we were told that you couldn’t trust those wicked Commies because when THEY signed a treaty they would only continue to recognize it while it suited them, whereas the truth is that that is the way that ALL governments have behaved since the dawn of time. How naive we all were!

  • Cali Ron

    Agreed! The religiously deluded could all use a healthy dose of cynicism. In fact most people could use a healthy dose cynicism.