The Inuvialuit Regional Corporation will not be attending the papal visit to Iqaluit and instead invited the church and the Canadian Catholic Bishops to "reflect upon their role in the colonization of Inuvialuit Nunangat," the Inuvialuit homeland.
In a news release, the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation (IRC) said it respectfully declined the invitation to attend the event scheduled for July 29, "as it remains unclear if a formal apology will be made or not."
The Roman Catholic Church operated three residential schools in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region, according to the corporation, including the notorious Grollier Hall residence in Inuvik and the Immaculate Conception hostel and day school in Aklavik.
In a private meeting with the Pope in the Vatican in late March, Natan Obed, a national Inuit leader and president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, called for specific actions including the Pope delivering an apology in Canada. Obed also called for the Canadian Catholic Bishops to follow its legal obligations under the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, which includes paying $25 million in financial restitution to survivors of residential school.
The settlement also requires the church to provide immediate access to relevant documents that are necessary to identify Inuit children who may have died while at residential schools and who need to be "posthumously reunited with their families and communities."
The IRC said it recognizes the papal visit, but will withhold any involvement "while the church continues to withhold any settlement payments, despite promises made in the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement."
"Inuvialuit continue to bear the burden of intergenerational trauma stemming from residential schools and will never forget these atrocities," the IRC release said.
The IRC said it would expect a commitment from the church to work closely with Inuvialuit on a real approach to reconciliation.
The press release said the IRC understands some Inuvialuit will attend the events as part of the papal visit.
"While not participating itself, IRC wishes Inuvialuit survivors and families healing as they continue their journey."