Canadian priest calls century of abuse of indigenous children in Catholic schools ‘fake news’

By Harry Howard, history correspondent for MailOnline

From 1863 to the 1970s, more than 150,000 Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families and placed in residential schools across Canada.

The system was created in the 19th century by Christian churches and the Canadian government in an effort to “assimilate” Indigenous youth and convert them into Canadian society.

The children were forced to cut their long hair, were not allowed to speak their own language and many were abused both physically and sexually.

An estimated 6,000 children have died in the schools. The protests this month – which saw statues of both Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II toppled – came after a series of discoveries of mass graves in recent weeks and months.

The latest find — on Wednesday — of 182 child bodies was made by an Indigenous group using ground-penetrating radar at the former St. Eugene’s Mission School in Cranbrook, British Columbia.

In the US, a similar system of Native American boarding schools existed with the aim of “civilizing” children in Western culture.

The American system existed from the mid-19th century to the mid-20th century.

The Kamloops Indian Residential School in 1937. The school was established in 1890 and operated until 1969, peaking at 500 in the 1950s

Did Queen Victoria or the Queen have any influence on school policy??

In 1867, the Canadian Confederation of what were previously separate British colonies in North America was established, creating a self-governing state within the British Empire.

Queen Victoria, who reigned from 1837 until her death in 1901, sat on the throne when the residential school system was in full swing.

Victoria never visited Canada and – given her status as a constitutional monarch – had very limited influence over UK government and even less ability to question Canada’s policies.

The system was largely the result of Canada’s Indian Act, passed in 1876 under Canada’s Liberal Prime Minister, Alexander MacKenzie, with no influence from the British government.

Prior to Confederation, however, it was the passing of the Gradual Civilization Act—which required indigenous people to speak English or French—that ultimately relied on the system.

The aim was for the indigenous population to “no longer be regarded as Indian” and instead become a regular British subject.

An undated photo of native children with their parents at Kamloops residential school

An undated photo of native children with their parents at Kamloops residential school

In 1920, residential school attendance became compulsory for native children between the ages of 7 and 15.

When Canada was formally granted Dominion status in 1926, it was recognized as an ‘autonomous’ community within the British Empire.

In 1931, the statue of Westminster confirmed its full legislative independence, although full sovereignty was not formally adopted until 1982.

It meant that while the native school system continued, the British government and the monarch were not involved in its maintenance.

It was not until 1982 that the Canadian Constitution was amended to recognize the rights of “Indians, Inuit, and Métis peoples of Canada.”

Queen Elizabeth II, who remains the monarch of Canada, has a purely constitutional role both in the UK and in former British colonies, where she remains head of state.

It means that although statues of her have been toppled, she had no impact on the Canadian residential school system.

A statue of 18th-century British explorer Captain James Cook has also been the target of recent protests.

The Royal Navy captain made the famous three voyages in the Pacific and to Australia, but also spent time in Canada.

He was involved in the blockade of Louisbourg against French troops in 1758 and made maps of the city and harbor of Halifax in 1761.

He also took part in the attack on then French-occupied Quebec.