The Kamloops Indian Residential School in Kamloops, B.C., is shown in this 1930 handout photo. Sixty-six per cent of respondents to an online survey conducted by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies say the church is responsible for tragedies at residential schools, while 34 per sent say the federal government should be blamed. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Deschatelets-NDC Archives

The Kamloops Indian Residential School in Kamloops, B.C., is shown in this 1930 handout photo. Sixty-six per cent of respondents to an online survey conducted by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies say the church is responsible for tragedies at residential schools, while 34 per sent say the federal government should be blamed. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Deschatelets-NDC Archives

Most Canadians say church to blame for residential-school tragedies: poll

66 per cent of respondents to Leger survey say the church is responsible for the tragedies

A new survey suggests two-thirds of Canadians believe the churches that ran residential schools should bear responsibility for the abuses against children, including deaths, that happened there.

The online survey by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies was carried out about a week after Tk’emlups te Secwepec First Nation said ground-penetrating radar has detected what are believed to be the remains of 215 children at a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.

Over more than a century, some 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children were forcibly sent to government-funded, church-operated schools, where many suffered abuse and even death.

Sixty-six per cent of respondents to the survey say the church is responsible for the tragedies that took place at residential schools in Canada, while 34 per sent say the federal government should be blamed.

The online survey of 1,539 adult Canadians was conducted from June 4 to June 6 and cannot be assigned a margin of error because internet-based polls are not considered random.

Leger vice-president Andrew Enns said the fact that a majority of Canadians blame the church for what happened at residential schools comes as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called on the Catholic Church to take responsibility for its role in Canada’s residential school system.

“In some respects, I think the prime minister may have been on to something in terms of encouraging the church to do a bit better on this file,” Enns said.

The Catholic Church operated the Kamloops Indian Residential School from 1890 to 1969. The Catholic Church ran the majority of residential schools in Canada, while others were run by the Anglican and United Church of Canada. The Catholic Church as a whole has never issued a formal apology for its role.

Trudeau said Friday that as a Catholic, he is deeply disappointed by the position that the church has taken and he’s urging it to release records on the schools and noted that he personally asked Pope Francis to consider an apology during his 2017 visit to the Vatican.

The survey also found that 80 per cent of respondents say what was found in Kamloops is only the tip of the iceberg and the same amount who said Canadians should feel ashamed residential schools, which were funded by the federal government, ever existed.

Seventy-seven of respondents say the government should order all the grounds surrounding former residential schools in Canada be systematically searched to find out if what happened in Kamloops also happened in other places.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission that investigated the residential school system and its legacy detailed in its nearly 4,000-page report the harsh mistreatment, including emotional, physical and sexual abuse, inflicted on First Nations, Métis and Inuit children that were forced to attend the schools away from their families and communities. Ongoing research by the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation shows at least 4,100 died in the schools amid neglect.

Enns said Canadians are expecting the discovery of more grave sites like the one recently discovered in Kamloops.

“This is an issue that will be with us for some time and in particular if we start to make further discoveries,” he said. “Obviously, the government is going to have to take some action to start to, to really pursue some of these other potential unmarked grave locations across the country.”

Fifty-seven per cent of survey respondents agreed the discovery of the unmarked burial site in Kamloops and the potential for others like it made them question the whole moral foundation that Canada has been based on.

“My view is I found this number still fairly high,” Enns said. “What it means for Canada? What it means for being Canadian? I think there is the cause for this cause for some reflection, and at 57 per cent, it’s not an insignificant amount of the population.”

—Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press

RELATED: Devastation over discovery at Kamloops residential school felt deeply throughout Shuswap

IndigenousReligionresidential schools

Just Posted

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

Holger Schwichtenberg and his son Philip talk in the barn of the 150-acre Schwichtenberg farm. This farm is one of many throughout B.C. that support more than 12,500 jobs across the province in the dairy industry. (Contributed Photo/B.C. Dairy Association)
Agassiz dairy farm a model of care for environment, animals, and family

Farm is part of a dairy sector centred in the Fraser Valley, supporting 12,500 jobs province-wide

Kalyn Head, seen here on June 4, 2021, will be running 100 kilometres for her “birthday marathon” fundraiser on July 23. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Woman’s 100-km birthday marathon from Chilliwack to Abbotsford will benefit Special Olympics B.C.

Kalyn Head hopes run raises awareness, advocates for inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities

The Great Gordini puts on a magic show for an avid audience during the first Storytime in the Park in this 2019 photo. (Grace Kennedy/The Observer)
Storytime in the Park returns this summer

Day 1 registration is on June 30

Dancers from the Sts’ailes First Nation perform the eagle dance at a welcome banner dedication ceremony on Thursday, June 10. “Ey Swayel” is a Halq̓eméylem term translated as ‘a good day.’ (Adam Louis/Observer)
VIDEO: ‘A good day’ for Agassiz school as Sts’ailes welcome banner is dedicated

Banner hangs above the school’s entrance, welcoming students, staff and visitors

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Surrey Fire Service battled a dock fire along the Fraser River late Friday night (June 18). It was on Musqueam Drive, near Industrial Road, around 10:45 p.m. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
VIDEO: Fire engulfs pier on Surrey side of the Fraser River

Dock has reportedly been unused for a long time

Most Read