As in Ireland, the Catholic Church in Canada performed a role of undertaking social services on behalf of the government.
The remains of 215 children of the First Nations were found in unmarked graves last month at the Kamloops Indian Residential school in British Columbia. The school was Canada’s largest and was operated by the Roman Catholic church between 1890 and 1969.
In all, nearly three-quarters of the 130 schools for Canada's Native Americans were run by Catholic missionary congregations. From the 19th century until the 1970s, more than 150,000 First Nations children were required to attend state-funded Christian schools as part of a program to assimilate them into Canadian society. They were forced to convert to Christianity and not allowed to speak their native languages. They also lost touch with their parents and customs. Many were beaten and verbally abused, and up to 6,000 are said to have died.
The Canadian government apologized in parliament in 2008 and admitted that physical and sexual abuse in the schools was rampant.
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops announced in 2018 that the pope could not personally apologize for residential schools.