This is the cover page of a letter sent to a senior Indian Affairs official in 1935 at the request of the Cardinal Archbishop of Quebec asking for a split of the department’s education branch into Catholic and non-Catholic. (Library and Archives Canada) When the Ontario Provincial Police raided the Oblates of Mary Immaculate offices in Ottawa in 1995, they seized a number of documents including a file containing a memo written in Latin and addressed to the order’s leadership in Rome.
The memo concerned a member of the order who was associated with St. Anne’s residential school in Fort Albany, Ont.
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has claimed in recent weeks, in defence of a statement that Pope Francis could not "personally respond" to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s request for an apology for residential schools, that the Catholic Church itself could not be blamed for the abuses committed at the institutions.
The conference says the schools were run by 16 dioceses and about 36 orders independent of the direction or responsibility of Catholic Church, represented by the Pope in the Vatican.
Yet, the OPP records along with historical files reveal that the Catholic hierarchy in Canada, from the cardinal level down to the bishop, were deeply involved with residential schools and their fingerprints are even found in the Indian Act.
The raid by the OPP was part of a sprawling, six-year investigation into abuse at St. Anne’s that included searches of the Oblates and Sisters of Charity offices in Ottawa. The investigation led to five convictions.
The Latin memo is among a list of documents seized by the OPP following their search of the Oblates’ office that was filed with a justice of the peace and obtained by CBC News.
It related to one of several religiously-affiliated individuals OPP investigators were seeking information on when they applied for the search warrant, according to OPP files. Police investigators were also seeking information on a bishop, a priest, and several nuns and order brothers. Pope Francis appears before delivering his Easter message in the Urbi et Orbi (to the city and the world) address from the balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on April 1. (Stefano Rellandini/Reuters) Correspondence connected to residential schools
The Oblates brother mentioned in the Latin memo was a boatman who sailed between Moosonee and St. Anne’s delivering supplies and transporting children from community of Winisk to the school, according to St. Anne’s survivor Edmund Metatawabin.
Metatawabin said he doesn’t know why investigators were looking for information about the man.
The OPP files, which are redacted, do not reveal why they were interested in the Oblate brother or what the memo said. But its existence, and the fact it was addressed to the Curia Generalizia, reveals there was communication with the upper echelons of the order about an individual connected to the operations of a residential school.
The Curia Generalizia, or the headquarters, of the Oblates is based in Rome. Most Catholic orders have a Curia Generalizia. These are overseen by the Vatican through a dicastery, which is like a government ministry that ensures all the orders are following Catholic law, according to Joe Gunn, who worked for the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops for 11 years.
"They would be regulated under canon law and they would be under that department or ministry of the Vatican," said Gunn.
"Most of them report every so often. That is kind of the chain of command." ‘Taxed’ schools
Some of the orders "taxed" the federally-funded schools they operated to feed the coffers of their central offices in Canada, according to research by Jim Miller, a professor emeritus of […]
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