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Wednesday, October 28, 1998 Published at 12:03 GMT

World: Americas

Church apologises for abuse

Ian Gunn reports

Canada's largest protestant church has apologised to the country's native people for physical, sexual and mental abuse of native children in church-run schools.

Native victims say it is an important step as they seek compensation for decades of abuse.

For more than a century Indian children in Canada were forced from their families and sent to boarding schools run by Canadian churches.

The schools were often brutal. Many children were sexually and physically abused.

The schools are all now closed but thousands of former pupils are still seeking compensation and apologies for the way they were treated.

One church has now made that apology. The United Church of Canada, the country's largest protestant church, says it is truly and humbly sorry for its role in running the schools.

The admission may be significant because Canadian churches are involved in hundreds of court cases with natives seeking compensation.

The United Church apology follows a similar admission earlier this year by the Canadian Government.

It has now offered $250m to help tackle the deep social problems the schools have created.

Until now the churches have been careful of admitting any wrongdoing, fearing that they too could face compensation bills running to hundreds of millions of dollars.

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