Canadian police said they arrested a 92-year-old retired priest for a sexual assault more than 50 years ago at one of Canada’s residential schools for Indigenous children.
Sgt Paul Manaigre of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said on Friday that police arrested retired Father Arthur Masse for the assault. Manaigre said the victim was 10 years old at the time and it happened between 1968 and 1970 at Ford Alexander residential school in Manitoba.
Manaigre said there is no time limit to report a sexual assault. Masse has been released on conditions and is due to be in court next month.
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 Indigenous languages. 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. Many students recalled being beaten for speaking their languages. They also lost touch with their parents and customs.
Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Canada late next month to apologize to Indigenous groups for the Catholic church’s role in the schools.