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

Elaine Kirwin in her Expedia Cruises office talks about the future of travel. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)
Sidney travel agency charts course through pandemic

Owner of Expedia Cruises in Sidney expects smooth sailing ahead once travel restrictions lift

Oak Bay Rotary Club member Lorna Curtis takes over as District Governor of Rotary District 5020 on July 1. (Courtesy Lorna Curtis)
Former Oak Bay recreation director goes international with Rotary

Lorna Curtis takes over as district governor on July 1

Co-creatorsAdrianna Hatton and Malcolm McKenzie stand next to the little free library revealed Sunday at 9710 First St. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Literary crowd helps opens little free library in Sidney

Located at 9710 First St., the book sharing box features original art and reclaimed wood

Deep Cove Elementary School principal Shelley Hardcastle (right) and vice-principal Mary Kaercher help to restock Reay Creek with fish – in this case, coho fry – after a recent bleach spill killed hundreds of fish. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
North Saanich’s Deep Cove Elementary School helps to restock Sidney’s Reay Creek

Restocking followed bleach spill that killed hundreds of fish in creek

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

Most Read