Trudeau calls on Catholic Church to publish residential school records, urges Catholics to apply pressure

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is urging Catholics across the country to demand action from the Catholic Church in response to a report that children’s remains may have been discovered near a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.

The local Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation announced last week the discovery of what it believes to be the remains of around 215 children buried near the former school’s site. The school was operated by the Catholic Church from 1890 to 1969.

Church officials have so far resisted making public records related to the school. That resistance is said to be stalling efforts to identify children who may be buried there.

“As a Catholic, I am deeply disappointed by the decision that the Catholic Church has taken now and over the past many years,” the prime minister said during a news conference today.

Trudeau said he asked Pope Francis previously to commit to a number of restitution measures, including a formal apology and the publication of records associated with Canada’s residential school system.

The Church has not yet delivered on any of those requests.

“We’re still seeing resistance from the Church,” Trudeau said.

“I think it’s going to be a really important moment for all of us, particularly Catholics across the country, to reach out in our local parishes, to reach out to bishops, cardinals, and make it clear we expect the Church to step up and take responsibility for its role in this.”

A formal apology from the Pope is among the recommendations coming out of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report.

While the Catholic Church itself has not formally apologized or published exhaustive residential school records, some Canadian Catholic churches have confronted directly the news from Kamloops.

“We all seek the truth and this tragic discovery provides yet another opportunity for us to learn more about this dark chapter in our history and the painful journey experienced by so many of our Indigenous brothers and sisters,” said Thomas Collins, the archbishop of Toronto, in a statement released on Thursday.

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