Canadian priest arrested for 1960s sexual assault at First Nations residential school | Canada

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.

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Canada’s residential schools

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Canada’s residential schools

Over the course of 100 years, more than 150,000 Indigenous children were taken from their families to attend state-funded Christian boarding schools in an effort to forcibly assimilate them into Canadian society.

They were given new names, forcibly converted to Christianity and prohibited from speaking their native languages. Thousands died of disease, neglect and suicide; many were never returned to their families.

The last residential school closed in 1996.

Nearly three-quarters of the 130 residential schools were run by Roman Catholic missionary congregations, with others operated by the Presbyterian, Anglican and the United Church of Canada, which is today the largest Protestant denomination in the country.

In 2015, a historic Truth and Reconciliation Commission which concluded that the residential school system amounted to a policy of cultural genocide.

Survivor testimony made it clear that sexual, emotional and physical abuse were rife at the schools. And the trauma suffered by students was often passed down to younger generations – a reality magnified by systematic inequities that persist across the country.

Dozens of First Nations do not have access to drinking water, and racism against Indigenous people is rampant within the healthcare system. Indigenous people are overrepresented in federal prisons and Indigenous women are killed at a rate far higher than other groups.

The commissioners identified 20 unmarked gravesites at former residential schools, but they also warned that more unidentified gravesites were yet to be found across the country.

Photograph: Provincial Archives Of Saskatchewan/PROVINCIAL ARCHIVES OF SASKATCHE

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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.

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