Indigenous delegates from B.C. hope for 'expanded apology' during papal visit

·3 min read
Pope Francis will be in Edmonton, Quebec and Iqaluit from July 27 to July 29. Many Indigenous people in B.C. are hoping for a deeper apology during the papal visit. (Filippo Monteforte/Getty Images - image credit)
Pope Francis will be in Edmonton, Quebec and Iqaluit from July 27 to July 29. Many Indigenous people in B.C. are hoping for a deeper apology during the papal visit. (Filippo Monteforte/Getty Images - image credit)

WARNING: This story contains distressing details.

Indigenous representatives from B.C. preparing to travel to Edmonton this weekend for the Pope's first stop in his Canadian papal visit say they are hoping the tight itinerary will still allow them the important conversations they're hoping to have.

Pope Francis will make stops in Alberta, Quebec and Nunavut from July 24 to 29 to apologize in person for the wrongs done to Indigenous people by Roman Catholic priests and nuns who ran abusive residential schools in Canada.

Deborah Page of the Saik'uz First Nation says both her mother and grandmother were residential school survivors and suffered intergenerational trauma for years.

"My family suffered a lot of loss," she told CBC News. "All of my aunties died before they were 51. My mom died when she was 49. My other aunt died when she was 35. My sister committed suicide in 2008, and then my great niece was found in a downtown women's shelter after she overdosed."

She said she was disappointed with the Pope's apology when delegations from First Nations, Inuit and Metis went to the Vatican earlier this year.

Jason Franson/The Canadian Press
Jason Franson/The Canadian Press

"I was a little disappointed that he apologized for what some of the Catholic members did to harm our people, but he didn't apologize for the church as a whole," Page said.

Reverend Carmen Lansdowne, a member of the Heitsulk First Nation and executive director of Vancouver's First United Church, says this weekend's trip is too short to have any heavy conversations with the Pope but hopes this is a catalyst for a more in-depth meeting.

"It's such a short visit, and there's no way in which it can replicate the amount of testimony and deep listening that is required," she said.

She says she's concerned the trip will be focused on scheduled celebrations of mass and limited time and won't leave enough time for meaningful conversations and meetings with survivors.

"The Indigenous people are inviting the Pope and asking the Pope to come to Canada to listen and really understand why a full apology, restitution and living amends are required," Landsdowne said.

Important dialogue

Rosanne Casimir, the chief of Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc near Kamloops, B.C., says she and other delegates from the First Nation will be heading to Edmonton this weekend and are hoping to hear an expanded apology from the Pope.

"Going to Edmonton is going to be something that I'm looking forward to," she said on CBC's Daybreak South, "We had the opportunity to really share with him the impacts of residential schools and an apology."

Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press
Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press

She says more conversations are needed with the Pope to discuss issues like the raising of funds for residential school survivors, sharing of artifacts, and, more importantly, the release of all historical documents related to residential schools.

"The apology from our last papal visit ... contained no acts of contrition or what the retribution is going to be in the path toward reconciliation and healing," Casimir said.

Landsdowne says she hopes this visit will be the start of more dialogue with the Roman Catholic church.

"Even though this trip doesn't contain as much dialogue as I would prefer, I hope that [the Pope's] heart and mind is changed, and this trip inspires in him a desire to really ... make meaningful living amends to Indigenous people in Canada," she said.

Support is available for anyone affected by the lingering effects of residential schools and those who are triggered by the latest reports. The Indian Residential School Survivors Society can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-721-0066.

A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. Access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.

Within B.C., the KUU-US Crisis Line Society provides a First Nations and Indigenous-specific crisis line available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It's toll free and can be reached at 1-800-588-8717 or online at kuu-uscrisisline.com.

 

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