By Marc Lalonde
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The federal-government ministers responsible for Indigenous relations and services in Canada stood with Indigenous people in Canada in their lukewarm response to the Pope’s recent non-apology apology for the Catholic Church’s role in the horrors perpetuated on Indigenous children attending Residential Schools.
Crown-Indigenous Relations minister Marc Miller, Indigenous Services minister Patty Hajdu and Northern Affairs minister Daniel Vandal stopped short of saying the Pope’s comments didn’t go far enough, but hinted at the notion in their statement.
“The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action 58 called `upon the Pope to issue an apology to Survivors, their families, and communities for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of First Nations, Inuit, and Metis children in Catholic-run Residential Schools.’ The Pope has acknowledged the sexual abuse that was rampant in Residential Schools since his initial apology in Maskwacis on July 25; however, it is important to also recognize the systemic nature of this tragedy, that was both instigated and perpetuated by the Government of Canada and the churches, including the Catholic Church,” they wrote.
That day, the Pope said “I ask forgiveness, in particular, for the ways in which many members of the Church and of religious communities co-operated, not least through their indifference, in projects of cultural destruction and forced assimilation promoted by the governments of that time, which culminated in the system of Residential Schools,” the last of closed as recently as 1996. He asked forgiveness “for the wrong done by so many Christians to the Indigenous peoples.”
The Pope’s statement was roundly criticized in many parts of the country for not mentioning the sexual abuse Indigenous children faced at Residential Schools in his apology or the unmarked graves on school grounds.
“It is not up to the Government of Canada to accept or decline an apology on behalf of Indigenous Peoples, and we will continue to support them as they determine what is needed for healing, the ministers wrote. “We recognize that the events of this past week, and the revisiting of some of our country’s most tragic and painful truths, has been extremely difficult and traumatizing for many Survivors, families, and communities. And we know that the hurt and trauma they suffered continues to impact generations of Indigenous families and communities today.”
The ministers promised to continue to work with Indigenous communities on reconciliation and righting the wrongs of the not-so-distant past.
“Our government recognizes that there is work to do on many fronts following the pope’s visit to Canada. Pope Francis acknowledged that concrete actions are needed, including the repatriation of Indigenous artefacts, access for Survivors to Residential Schools documents, addressing the Doctrine of Discovery, and ensuring justice for survivors. We will continue to work with First Nations, Inuit and Metis on other priorities they’ve identified, to advance reconciliation and healing.”
Marc Lalonde is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter who works out of the
IORI:WASE. The LJI program is funded by the federal government. Turtle Island News does not receive LJI funding.