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Gavin John

A Cree woman named Si Pih Ko from Manitoba cries out after Pope Francis apologizes to Indigenous Peoples in Maskwacis, Alberta, for his perceived insincerity in apologizing for the church’s role in Canada’s Residential School System, and for showing disrespect by accepting a headdress and putting it over his skull cap, or zucchetto.

Pope Francis of the Roman Catholic Church apologized for the church’s role in Canada’s Residential School System, which aimed to assimilate Indigenous children into white Canadian society. The system lasted from the 1880s to the late 1990s and forcibly removed children from their homes and families, placing them in government-run schools with the assistance of various Christian churches.

In 2015, Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission concluded that the system amounted to “cultural genocide.” Over 150,000 First Nations, Métis, and Inuit children were taken from their homes. They experienced emotional, psychological, and physical abuse and poor living conditions, resulting in high mortality rates for Indigenous people. Despite the Canadian government’s apology and compensation payments to Indigenous Nations across Canada, many Indigenous leaders call for more support to address past and ongoing harms.