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Pope Francis plans a Canadian tour this summer

Indigenous groups welcome news that Pope Francis plans to visit Canada this summer after he apologized last month for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in residential schools.

The Vatican said Friday that the pontiff was to stop in Alberta, Quebec and Nunavut, and that the capitals of Edmonton, Quebec and Iqaluit were to serve as bases for the July 24-29 trip.

The Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations is working with the Holy See to plan for the pope’s stop in Alberta, Grand Chief George Arcand said in a statement.

Edmonton is part of Treaty 6 territory, which covers central Alberta and Saskatchewan.

“I recognize the impact the Pope’s visit will have on Treaty 6, for the survivors, their families and their communities,” Arcand said. “I hope we are on the road to healing and that the truths of the survivors are validated by this historic visit to our territories.”

Grand Chief Rémy Vincent of the Huron-Wendat Nation of Wendake, Quebec, said Friday’s announcement was relatively well received.

Wendake is an independent municipality but its two enclaves are surrounded by Quebec City.

“We should expect nothing less from the Church than to come to our territories here, in Quebec and in Canada, to apologize to the First Nations for the horrors that have been committed and brought to light in recent years”, he said in an interview on Friday.

Vincent says he expects to meet Francis, but there has been no real interest from the community for him to visit Wendake.

“We’re not a very religious community,” he said. “It’s also controversial here. You can’t hide it. There are people who still have a lot of resentment, who are still bitter about what happened.”

The Archbishop of Quebec, Cardinal Gerald Lacroix, said it would be a “true joy” to welcome the pope and that the visit would build on the Church’s efforts toward reconciliation.

“We have to find a better way to live together and to respect each other and to be proud of who we are, of our cultures, of our languages, of our way of expressing our faith. That will be very useful,” he said. -he declares.

The Union of BC Indian Chiefs requested a route change to include the site of the former Kamloops residential school. It has been almost a year since potential graves were discovered there in the first of what would be other shocking finds in Western Canada.

“B.C. First Nations are deeply disappointed that after all the…trauma and concern over missing children and unmarked burials at Catholic residential schools, there will be no visitation to any of these sites,” the chiefs said. said in a statement.

Chief Rosanne Casimir of the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation said it was a missed opportunity for the pope to hear directly from survivors of the former Kamloops residential school.

“While we understand the vastness of Canada and the need to make travel to Canada manageable for him, it is truly unfortunate that he does not have the opportunity to come to Kamloops Boarding School, the largest boarding school in the country. led by the Catholic Church. Church,” Casimir said.

“(Survivors) need to witness a real, meaningful apology from the highest level, from the Pope himself.”

She said that more than 200 First Nations have been touched by the Kamloops residential school and she hopes they will all have the chance to participate in her journey to Canada.

An estimated 150,000 Indigenous children were forced to attend residential schools in Canada and over 60% of schools were run by the Catholic Church.

On April 1, after several days of meetings with First Nations, Inuit and Métis groups at the Vatican, Pope Francis apologized for the deplorable conduct of Church members involved in residential schools. He also said he would visit Canada.

Indigenous delegates had told the pope that they expected an apology to be made on Canadian soil.

The Métis National Council reiterated the need for a papal apology and also called for a commitment to act for truth, reconciliation, justice and healing.

President Cassidy Caron said council was not consulted on location choices.

“We hope the Vatican will work closely with us in a spirit of reconciliation to ensure that there are adequate resources for any survivors who wish to attend,” Caron said in a statement.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops said the Vatican selected the three cities based on the length of the trip, the vast area of ​​Canada and the health of the 85-year-old pontiff.

Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton, general travel coordinator for the conference, said the pope is restricted in his travels. He can no longer ride in helicopters and cannot be in a vehicle for more than an hour. He must also rest between events.

Francis, despite his limitations, is expected to visit the site of a former boarding school.

Smith said a formal program needs to be developed with Indigenous partners.

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller said it’s important for Pope Francis to hear directly from survivors because it “not only provides an opportunity to apologize…but also to develop best practices as to how to move forward”.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement that the visit would not be possible without “the bravery and determination of the survivors, Indigenous leaders and youth who shared their stories” last month.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on May 13, 2022.

With files from Jacob Serebrin in Montreal


If you are a former Indian Residential School student in distress, or if you have been impacted by the Indian Residential School system and need assistance, you can contact the 24-hour Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419or the Indian Residential School Survivors Society toll-free line at 1-800-721-0066.

Additional mental health support and resources for Indigenous people are available here.