FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron speaks during a press conference and prayer vigil at the former Muscowequan Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan at Muskowekwan First Nation, Sask., on Tuesday, June 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Kayle Neis

FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron speaks during a press conference and prayer vigil at the former Muscowequan Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan at Muskowekwan First Nation, Sask., on Tuesday, June 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Kayle Neis

Indigenous leaders frustrated after Pope passes on apologizing for residential schools

More than 60 per cent of residential schools were run by the Catholic Church

Indigenous leaders are expressing disappointment and frustration over comments by Pope Francis they say fell short of an apology for the Catholic Church’s role in residential schools.

“It’s just part of the healing journey,” Bobby Cameron, chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, said Monday in Saskatoon.

“Why can’t the Pope contribute to that healing journey for survivors and their families?”

The Pope spoke Sunday in Rome and expressed his pain over the discovery of remains at a former residential school site in British Columbia.

The Tk’emlups te Secwepec First Nation has said ground-penetrating radar detected what are believed to be the remains of 215 Indigenous children at the Kamloops Indian Residential School site.

“We are all pained and saddened. We know that,” said Cameron. “Now it’s time to apologize.”

Cameron said the discovery in Kamloops has reopened wounds for many people in the 74 Saskatchewan First Nations he represents.

Cameron said a sincere apology from the Pope and a commitment to keep records of the church-run schools would help survivors and their families find healing.

The Saskatchewan chief said many of the people he represents don’t like using the term residential schools because it doesn’t grasp the horrific experience many had inside their walls.

“To many survivors and their families, they were institutions of torture, abuse and death.”

Some 150,000 First Nations, Metis and Inuit children were forced to go to the schools, which operated for more than 120 years in Canada. More than 60 per cent of residential schools were run by the Catholic Church.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has urged the church to take responsibility for its role in residential schools. He also asked that it release records on the schools.

Trudeau personally asked the Pope in 2017 to consider an apology for the institution’s part in the government-sponsored, church-run schools for Indigenous children.

A delegation of First Nations leaders and residential school survivors met with former pope Benedict in 2009. He expressed his sorrow and “personal anguish” but never apologized.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report included a call for the Pope to issue an apology “for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children in Catholic-run residential schools.” The commission urged that the apology be delivered in Canada within a year of the report, which was in 2015.

Arlen Dumas, grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, said the role of top leaders in the Catholic Church is implicit in what happened when they refuse to acknowledge the schools.

“The reality is these things happened and happened under the auspice of the church,” Dumas said.

He said the recent lack of an apology was particularly hurtful given Pope Francis’ cultivated image based on humbleness and humility.

“It makes me more critical as to how the Bible says one thing, but the law of man dictates another direction,” Dumas said in Winnipeg. “It’s very problematic.”

Dumas, a member of the Mathias Colomb Cree Nation, was raised in Pukatawagan in remote northwestern Manitoba.

He said there were only whispers while he was growing up about what was happening at nearby residential schools, because there was fear about speaking out.

Now, he said, there’s no denying what happened.

The Pope’s continued refusal to recognize the harms that were done is an insult to Indigenous people, he said.

“A meaningful apology would help facilitate a path to healing.”

—Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press

RELATED: Trudeau’s comments ‘unfair’ about Church and residential schools: Toronto archbishop

Pope FrancisReligionresidential schools

Just Posted

Students at Creston Valley Secondary School put together an art installation of a replica residential school room. (Photo by Kelsey Yates)
Creston students create art installation of residential school room

The replica was decorated with a small bed, school uniform, and notes written with pleas for help

A living wage sets a higher standard than the minimum wage; it is what a family needs to earn to provide the basic needs based on the actual costs of living in a community.
Fruitvale now a living wage employer

“I’m really excited that Fruitvale is leading the charge for municipalities locally,” Morissette said.

Nelson police say a man attacked two people downtown with bear spray on Wednesday afternoon. File photo
Two people attacked with bear spray in downtown Nelson: police

Police say the three people know each other

Rotary eClub of Waneta Sunshine, alongside members from the Kootenay Native Plant Society and Trail Wildlife Association, joined together for a day of planting at Fort Shepherd. The Waneta Sunshine eClub was granted funds through an Express Grant from District 5080 to plant 50 shrubs which support pollinator opportunities at Fort Shepherd. Photos: Submitted
Kootenay conservation partners plant pollinator ‘superfoods’ at Fort Shepherd

TLC welcomes community groups to Fort Shepherd who would like to help local ecosystems thrive

Harold and Sadie Holoboff are bringing great food and service to the Eagle’s Nest Restaurant at Champion Lakes Golf and Country Club. Photo: Jim Bailey
West Kootenay golf course welcomes father-daughter team to restaurant

Chef Harold Holoboff brings comfort food to another level at Champion Lakes Eagle’s Nest Restaurant

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

A Heffley Creek peacock caught not one - but two - lifts on a logging truck this month. (Photo submitted)
Heffley Creek-area peacock hops logging trucks in search of love

Peacock hitched two lifts in the past month

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

The first suspension bridge is the tallest in Canada, with a second suspension bridge just below it. The two are connected by a trail that’s just over 1 km. (Claire Palmer photo)
PHOTOS: The highest suspension bridges in Canada just opened in B.C.

The Skybridge in Golden allows visitors to take in views standing at 130 and 80 metres

BC Green Party leader and Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau introduced a petition to the provincial legislature on Thursday calling for the end of old-growth logging in the province. (File photo)
BC Green leader Furstenau introduces old-growth logging petition

Party calls for the end of old-growth logging as protests in Fairy Creek continue

B.C. Premier John Horgan leaves his office for a news conference in the legislature rose garden, June 3, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. premier roasted for office budget, taxing COVID-19 benefits

Youth addiction law that triggered election hasn’t appeared

A vial containing the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is shown at a vaccination site in Marcq en Baroeul, outside Lille, northern France, Saturday, March 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Michel Spingler
mRNA vaccines ‘preferred’ for all Canadians, including as 2nd dose after AstraZeneca: NACI

New recommendations prioritizes Pfizer, Moderna in almost all cases

Most Read