PRIME Minister Justin Trudeau, welcoming the announcement of Pope Francis’ visit to Canada from July 24 to 29, said on Friday in a statement: “I welcome the news of His Holiness Pope Francis’ visit to Canada this summer to formally deliver the Roman Catholic Church’s apology for its role in operating residential schools that caused lasting pain and suffering to Indigenous Peoples in this country.
“His Holiness’ upcoming visit would not be possible without the bravery and determination of the Survivors, Indigenous leaders, and youth who shared their stories.
“While His Holiness delivered an apology in Rome last month, a formal in-person apology in Canada from the Roman Catholic Church to Survivors and their families would respond to Call to Action #58 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). This would be an important – and necessary – step for the Roman Catholic Church to continue engaging in dialogue with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis in order to advance meaningful reconciliation for Indigenous Peoples in our country. For far too long, this has been a burden carried by Indigenous Peoples alone. I encourage all Canadians to watch this historic moment and reflect on the impacts of colonialism.
“The Government of Canada is committed to implementing the TRC’s Calls to Action and supporting Survivors and their communities in the journey of healing. We will continue to support First Nations, Inuit, and Métis by investing in their efforts to identify and recover those who never came home. Recognizing that this work can trigger painful memories, the government will also continue to invest in culturally appropriate mental health and wellness supports so that individuals, families, and communities can grieve and heal.
“If you need to talk to someone, mental health supports will continue to be available to residential school Survivors, their families, and communities throughout the Pope’s visit to Canada, including through national helplines and other mental wellness services.”
The Pope will visit Edmonton, Quebec City and Iqaluit.
MEANWHILE, First Nations in British Columbia say they have a profound sense of disappointment that after all of the efforts to have the ongoing trauma and concern over missing children and unmarked burials at the Catholic operated residential schools, there will be no visit to any of those sites.
The Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs said in a statement: “The invitation by Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc to visit Kamloops Indian Residential School was supported by the UBCIC and all First Nations peoples, and non-Indigenous peoples. We urge a reconsideration of the itinerary and the addition of another stop on this important trip.”
THE federal NDP critic for Indigenous Services, Lori Idlout, said in a statement:
“Indigenous peoples have long called on the Catholic Church to show leadership in the Truth and Reconciliation process. The news that Pope Francis will visit Canada is met with a myriad of emotions by the First Nations, Inuit and Métis. The church’s role in the genocide perpetrated against Indigenous peoples still affects families and communities today.
“While Indigenous peoples deserve an unequivocal apology from the Catholic Church, immediate action is urgently needed to ensure healing from crimes committed against Inuit, First Nations and Metis, at the hands of the churches.
“The Catholic Church and the government worked together in these harms. As such, they must work together to finally ensure that the harm done to Indigenous peoples is being addressed. This must include cooperating with ongoing investigations and making all documents requested by survivors, police and local governments available. The Liberal government knows what they need to do for Indigenous peoples seeking answers. There can be no more false promises or delays. Indigenous peoples deserve truth, justice and a government that has the courage to act.
“The Pope’s visit must not be symbolic. He must listen to the calls of Elders in Nunavut to not just stop in Iqaluit, but actually go visit former Residential Schools and speak directly with survivors to truly understand the crimes and harms that the Catholic Church inflicted on generations of Inuit, Métis and First Nations peoples.
“New Democrats will never stop fighting for justice for Indigenous peoples. We’ll continue to push this government to work with the Catholic church to deliver what is needed so Indigenous peoples, their families and communities can heal.”
National helplines are available 24/7 to support Indigenous Peoples across Canada:
- The Hope for Wellness Help Line provides immediate, toll-free telephone and online-chat based support and crisis intervention to all Indigenous people in Canada. This service is available in English and French, and upon request in Cree, Ojibway, and Inuktitut. Counsellors are available by phone at 1-855-242-3310 or by online chat at hopeforwellness.ca.
- The National Indian Residential School Crisis Line is available to provide emotional and crisis referral services by phone at 1-866-925-4419.