Priest Banned After Calling Abuse Of Indigenous Children At Catholic Schools ‘Fake News’
Warning: Contains content some readers may find distressing
A priest in Canada has been banned from delivering sermons after he described stories about the abuse of indigenous children at Catholic schools as ‘fake news’.
Father Rhéal Forest was banned from addressing the public by the Archdiocese of St. Boniface in Winnipeg, Canada, after he made a series of controversial comments during services at St. Emile Roman Catholic Church, footage of which was recorded and posted on the church’s Facebook page.
At a mass on July 10, Father Rhéal Forest accused survivors of abuse and sexual assault at some residential schools for Indigenous children of lying in an effort to get more money from financial settlements addressing the issues.
According to the videos cited by CBC, he commented, ‘If they wanted extra money, from the money that was given to them, they had to lie sometimes – lie that they were abused sexually and, oop, another $50,000. It’s kind of hard if you’re poor not to lie.’
Forest went on to claim all of the indigenous people he knew during his years of work liked residential schools, and blamed media outlets for spreading what he described as false information about the residential school system, saying, ‘This is the evil, the evil of media. Media makes people believe so many things. Fake news.’
In another mass, the priest described passing by a local church that had been vandalised, saying, ‘As I’m passing by, thoughts of anger. If I had a shotgun at night and I’d see them, I’d go, ‘Boom!’ just to scare them and if they don’t run away, I’ll shoot them. But this would not help, it’s bad to do that, I’d go have a chat with them.’
The archdiocese has since removed the videos of Forest and announced the priest had been banned from preaching and teaching publicly.
In a statement to Newsweek, the Archdiocese of St. Boniface condemned the remarks and asked for forgiveness, stating:
Recognizing the undeniable multi-faceted tragic legacy of the Indian Residential School system, Archbishop LeGatt and the Archdiocese completely disavow Fr. Rhéal Forest’s comments.
We very much take to heart the pain his words have caused to numerous people, not least of course Indigenous people and, more specifically, survivors of the Residential School system.
He continued, ‘As Archbishop of St. Boniface, Bishop LeGatt asks Indigenous people throughout the Archdiocese of St. Boniface and beyond, especially the survivors of the Fort Alexander Residential School, as well as their families, for forgiveness for the hurt these unfounded remarks have caused.’
Indigenous children were mandated to take part in the residential school system when it began in the 1800s, with estimates suggesting tens of thousands of children may have died as a result of the treatment they experienced at the schools, while many more were subjected to sexual and physical abuse.
If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and wish to speak to someone in confidence, contact the Rape Crisis England and Wales helpline on 0808 802 9999 between 12pm–2.30pm and 7pm– 9.30pm every day. Alternatively, you can contact Victim Support free on 08 08 16 89 111 available 24/7, every day of the year, including Christmas.
Male Survivors Partnership is available to support adult male survivors of sexual abuse and rape. You can contact the organisation on their website or on their free helpline 0808 800 5005, open 9am–5pm Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays; 8am–8pm Tuesdays and Thursdays; 10am–2pm Saturdays
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