Archbishop of Montreal Christian Lépine

Justin Trudeau kneeling

What was the Accusation?

The plan was to “forcibly assimilate the indigenous population” at boarding schools established by the Canadian government and run by the Catholic Church. But a darker side emerged after a mass grave containing the remains of 215 indigenous children, some as young as 3, was found on the grounds of the school residence in Kamloops in Southcentral British Columbia. Why the youths died and who they were has not become clear, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau demanded that the church provide more details and possibly restitution concerning past abuses at the boarding school. Although United Nations human rights experts asked that Canada and the Vatican investigate what happened at the site, which was home to indigenous children for 80 years, Trudeau made it clear that this is the church’s responsibility. Rosanne Casimir, who heads the Tk’emlups Te Secwepemc, an indigenous group in western Canada, sought a “public apology” from the Catholic Church for its role, “not only for us, but for the whole world.” The Kamloops boarding school was among 130 residence halls run by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. The institutions, established between 1890 and 1996, were responsible for about 150,000 children interned there, of whom 4,000 died during their stay. Survivors also requested more information on sexual abuse that went on at the residence halls. The investigation also sought to determine how many other children may have died under similar circumstances in the region. The Catholic Church operated about 60 percent of the residences, so investigators wanted to determin who else was responsible. The Oblates apologized in 1991 for abuses, and Pope Benedict XVI told a Canadian delegation in 2009 that treatment of the Native children was “deplorable.” Archbishop Christian Lépine of Montreal extended an apology after the remains were found. Similar schools were run for Native American youth during the early 19th and mid-20th century in the U.S.

Key Apologia Strategies:

Mortification, Corrective Action



Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Statements Demanding Apology from the Catholic Church:

We’re still seeing resistance from the church. Possibly from the church in Canada.

Forgiveness and redemption is a path we all are told we should be walking on through our faith.

I am confident that the Catholic Church is hearing these calls, very clearly, and is understanding the kind of dismay and grief that many Canadians are feeling right now and seeing the continued lack of action.

I find it very difficult for the Catholic Church to continue refusing to apologize and participate in this important process.”

Statement from Archbishop of Montreal Christian Lépine:

I am deeply distressed to know that, as Catholics and as Canadians, we collaborated in view of God and the world with this policy of assimilating the First Nations people under the guise of education. We must acknowledge the damage that we have caused; we must commit to assisting each family still seeking the truth about their little loved one who disappeared without a trace, so that they may finally be able to grieve; and we must offer our apologies for the wrongdoing that has been committed.”


Newton, P. (2021, June 1). Unthinkable discovery in Canada. CNN. Retrieved from

Joaquin, A. (2021, June 4). Trudeau calls on Catholic Church to take responsibility for residential schools. CTV News. Retrieved from

Rivas, J. C. (2021, June 4). Trudeau demands Catholic Church apology for indigenous children abuse. La Prensa Latina Media. Retrieved from

CBC (2021, June 12). Archbishop of Montreal issues apology for residential school system in Quebec. CBC News. Retrieved from canada/montreal/montreal-archbishop-offers-apology-indigenous-communities-1.6063663