'In your heart it hurts': A residential school survivor says she'd like the Pope to apologize
TORONTO -- When Elizabeth Sackaney first read the news of the discovery of 215 children’s remains on the site of a former residential school in Kamloops B.C., she sat up and cried.
“My partner said ‘what's the matter, what's going on?’ then I gave him my phone to see what's going on he said ‘Oh my God’,” she told CTV News Channel on Monday. “It brought me back many years again, it opened up everything that I went through.”
As a survivor of the St. Anne’s Indian Residential School on James Bay, Sackaney has a clear idea of the conditions faced by the children in Kamloops. St. Anne’s was the subject of an Ontario Provincial Police investigation in 1992 that led to interviews with hundreds of abuse victims and witnesses. Ultimately, seven people were charged and five were convicted, while the federal government spend millions fighting a lawsuit by survivors in court.
“We got a lot of abuse, sexual abuse, all different kinds,” she said. “I got sick one time.. they forced me to eat all my oatmeal and I vomited it. There was nuns that held me down and pushed it in my mouth.”
As with many survivors, the impact of the experience continued to affect Sackaney’s life long after she left the school.
“I’ve lost two girls. One suicide because of this residential school and my other girl overdosed because they couldn’t handle the residential school issues,” she said.
Sackaney has been speaking about her experiences for years. She speaks with other survivors and testified in court as part of the St. Anne’s lawsuit, when many dismissed the truths being told about the residential school system.
“I've been fighting with government since it was 2005 when I went for my interview,” she said. “We are all trying to get healing and I'm happy a lot of people are starting to understand what we went through in that residential school.”
What Sackaney wants now is healing, and as part of that would like to see an apology from Pope Francis over the role of the Catholic Church in administering the residential schools.
“I was thinking how cruel a man that believes in God creator would be like that. They taught us in St.Anne’s school to pray all the time. Why is it so hard for him to apologize and say ‘I’m very sorry this went on’?” she said.
Sackaney said she wants Canadians to believe survivors and that she’ll talk to anyone who wants to listen. The discovery of the remains in Kamloops reveals more truth, which she acknowledged can be a positive thing.
“Yes it does (give help), but it really hurts. In your heart it hurts,” she said.