Pope visits Canada for residential schools apology; Canadian films in San Jose

A newsletter from a fellow Canadian organization in the Bay Area.

Canadian Studies Announcements
In This Issue:
Program News
  • Happy New Brunswick Day!
Canadian News
  • Pope Francis visits Canada to apologize for residential schools
External Events
  • Nine Canadian Films at the Cinequest Film & Creativity Festival
Happy New Brunswick Day!
Today, people across Canada are enjoying a well-deserved holiday. The first Monday in August goes by several names across Canada; New Brunswick is one of many places to mark the day as a commemoration of its history, and the many cultures that have contributed to Canada’s only bilingual province.
New Brunswick was first inhabited by First Nations peoples like the Mi’kmaq and Maliseet. In 1604, the French colonized the region as “Acadia”, the first of their New France territories. These Acadians were largely deported after the British conquered the province, in turn replaced by Loyalists fleeing the American victory in their revolution. For a time, the region prospered, and in 1867 it was one of the four original provinces that confederated to form the core of modern Canada. Unfortunately, the province then entered a long decline in its traditional industries like shipbuilding, lumber, and fishing, and by the 20th century it was one of the poorest regions in Canada.
Fortunately, today the province is seeing a revival, as Canadians from all over are lured by the provinces’ scenic beauty and relatively cheap housing costs. It also remains a popular holiday destination for Canadians, who appreciate the rugged coastline of the Bay of Fundy and its many beaches and picturesque lighthouses and covered bridges. So to all our New Brunswicker friends, have a safe and fun weekend!
Pope Francis Visits Canada to Apologize for Residential Schools
Pope Francis concluded a “penitential pilgrimage” of Canada on Friday,after making a landmark apology for the role of the Catholic Church in Canada’s Indian residential school system. Over the course of the six-day trip, the Pope met with government leaders and school survivors from across Canada as he travelled across Alberta, Quebec, and Nunavut.
The Indian residential school system was established by the Canadian government in the 19th century. The system lasted into the 1960s, when most residential schools were closed, although the last school did not close until 1997. The schools were meant to forcibly assimilate Native children into European Canadian society by removing them from their families, in what the Truth and Reconcilliation Comission calls a policy of “cultural genocide”. Attendance was compulsory for Indigenous chidren over the age of 7. While the schools were funded and overseen by the Canadian government, they were administered by Christian churches, 70% of them by Catholic religious orders.
Apart from the cultural destruction wrought by assimilation, students often endured terrible conditions in the schools. Official reports from the time and surivivor testimony shows that in many schools, children suffered from poor sanitation, overcrowding, and rampant disease. Abuse was also endemic to the system, with survivors recounting being beaten for speaking Native languages or engaging in traditional customs. Sexual abuse was also common. The Truth and Reconcilation Commission’s final report in 2015 listed a papal apology on Canadian territory as a key step in the Reconciliation process.
The Pope began his trip in Alberta, with a visit to the site of the Ermineskin Indian Residential School, south of Edmonton. In a public ceremony, he made a formal apology for the “evil” perpetuated by the schools before a gathering of Native elders and residential school survivors. Speaking in Spanish, he apologized for the way “Christians supported the colonizing mentality of the powers that oppressed the Indigenous peoples”. He described the assimiation process as “catastrophic” for Native communities, depriving them of the “values, language and culture that made up the authentic identity of your peoples.”
From Edmonton, the Pope travelled to Quebec. In Quebec City, he met with Prime Minister Trudeau and Governor General Mary Simon, the first every Indigenous person to hold that position. Following a sojourn to Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, where he held meetings with Indigenous leaders from eastern Canada, the Pope concluded his tour in Iqaluit, Nunavut, with another private meeting with residential school survivors. He said the meeting filled him with renewed “indignation and shame” for the suffering they had experienced.
Reactions to the visit from the Indigenous community have varied. Almost all welcomed the Pope’s remarks, which many felt were long overdue recognition of the trauma they endured. However, many added that the Reconciliation process is far from over. Some leaders called for the Pope to formally repudiate the 15th-century Doctrine of Discovery that justified the colonization of the Americans. Still others are calling for additional financial compensation to support families impacted by the residential schools. While the Catholic Church paid surivors $54 million as part of a 2006 settlement, an associated fundraising campaign raised only $3.7 million of a $25 million goal. While the Canadian Government released the Church from further legal obligation, activists say the Church remains morally responsible to pay the entire amount promised.
Photos provided by the Offices of the Prime Minister and Governor General.
Nine Canadian Films at the Cinequest Film & Creativity Festival
August 16-29 | San Jose, CA | Purchase tickets here
Canada will be well represented at this year’s Cinequest Film Festival, taking place in select theaters in San Jose. Canadian submissions include CarmenLabour DayMontréal GirlsAshgroveWolvesThe FamilyTehrantoWe’re All in This Together, and Back Home Again.
Image: Natascha McElhone and Steven Love in Carmen (2022).
Canadian Studies Program
213 Moses Hall #2308
Canadian Studies Program | Univ. of California, Berkeley, 213 Moses Hall #2308, Berkeley, CA 94720

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