JUSTIN TRUDEAU: “As a Catholic, I am deeply disappointed by the position the Catholic Church has taken now and over the past many years..."
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday blasted the Catholic Church, saying it must take responsibility for its role running so-called residential schools for indigenous children, after the discovery of the remains of 215 children at one former school.
JUSTIN TRUDEAU : "We expect the Church to step up and take responsibility for its role in this."
The discovery last week of the remains of the children – some as young as three years old - at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia which closed in 1978, has reopened old wounds and is fueling outrage about the lack of information and accountability.
Between 1831 and 1996, Canada's residential school system forcibly separated about 150,000 children from their homes.
Run by the government and church groups, most of them Catholic, the schools' stated aim was to assimilate indigenous children.
Many were subjected to abuse, rape and malnutrition in what a commission in 2015 tasked with investigating the system called "cultural genocide."
After a six-year investigation and years later, more than 4,100 children were identified to have died while attending the schools.
On Friday, the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation - who first announced the recent discovery and whose land the Kamloops school still stands - said they wanted a public apology from the Catholic Church.
In 2008, the Canadian government formally apologized for the system. Trudeau said many are "wondering why the Catholic Church in Canada is silent" and "is not stepping up."
JUSTIN TRUDEAU: "Before we have to start taking the Catholic Church to court, I am very hopeful that religious leaders will understand this is something they need to participate in and not hide from."
Vancouver Archbishop J. Michael Miller on Wednesday said on Twitter "the Church was unquestionably wrong" and his archdiocese would be transparent with its archives and records regarding residential schools.
The United Nations human rights experts on Friday called on both Canada and the Vatican to further investigate the deaths of the children recently found.