EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) — Thousands of Indigenous persons are expected to converge Monday on the small Alberta prairie community of Maskwacis to hear a long-awaited apology from Pope Francis for generations of abuse and cultural suppression at Catholic residential schools across Canada.
Francis is scheduled to arrive in mid-morning at the site of the former Ermineskin Indian Residential School, now largely torn down. He will pause at the sites of the former school and nearby cemetery before speaking in a large open area to school survivors, their relatives and other supporters.
Francis arrived Sunday in Edmonton, where he was greeted by representatives of Canada’s three main Indigenous groups — First Nations, Metis and Inuit — along with political and church dignitaries. The pope spent the rest of the day resting at a seminary in the provincial capital.
The Canadian government has admitted that physical and sexual abuse were rampant in the state-funded Christian schools that operated from the 19th century to the 1970s. Some 150,000 Indigenous children were taken from their families and forced to attend in an effort to isolate them from the influence of their homes, Native languages and cultures and assimilate them into Canada’s Christian society.