Canadian police say 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.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police Sergeant Paul Manaigre said Friday that police arrested retired father Arthur Masse for the assault. Manaigre said the victim was 10 at the time and it happened between 1968 and 1970 at the Ford Alexander residential school in Manitoba.
Manaigre said there is no time limit for reporting a sexual assault. Masse was released on conditions and is due in court next month.
From the 19th century until the 1970s, more than 150,000 First Nations children had to attend publicly funded Christian schools as part of a program to assimilate them into Canadian society. They were forced to convert to Christianity and were not allowed to speak their native languages. Many were beaten and verbally abused, and up to 6,000 people are believed to have died.
The Canadian government apologized to Parliament in 2008 and admitted that physical and sexual abuse in schools was endemic. Many students remember being beaten for speaking their language. They have also lost contact with their parents and their customs.
Pope Francis is due to visit Canada at the end of next month to apologize to indigenous groups for the Catholic Church’s role in schools.