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

A screenshot of the First Peoples Cultural Councils First Peoples’ Map. (First Peoples Cultural Council)
Online resource blends B.C.’s Indigenous language, art and culture

North Saanich advisor says initiative supports urgent need to preserve Indigenous languages

Marine biologist Rick Harbo pulls a lid from the Ladysmith harbour, which he uses to monitor the presence of native and non-native species in the Ladysmith harbour. (Cole Schisler photo)
Unidentified sponge may be the latest marine species invading Ladysmith Harbour

Marine biologist finding dozens of alien species in warm-water harbour, none of them threatening

Staff member Lena Laitinen gives the wall at BoulderHouse a workout during a media tour on June 16. (Rick Stiebel/News Staff)
BoulderHouse raring to rock Langford

Popularity of bouldering continues to climb across Greater Victoria

General manager Lindsey Pomper says Sidney’s Star Cinema cannot wait welcome audiences when it reopens June 18, amid an easing of public health measures. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Sidney’s Star Cinema raises curtain for the first time after months in the darkness

Iconic theatre to reopen at half capacity for Friday night showing

A dogs in parks pilot study unanimously approved by Saanich council will evaluate how park space can best be shared between dog owners and non-owners alike. (Photo by Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)
Saanich to study park-sharing strategy between those with and without pets

District-wide People, Parks and Dogs study to produce recommendations by fall

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir stands outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School after speaking to reporters, in Kamloops, B.C., on Friday, June 4, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Kamloops chief says more unmarked graves will be found across Canada

Chief Rosanne Casimir told a virtual news conference the nation expects to release a report at the end of June

A woman wears a vaccinated sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. ranks among highest in world in COVID-19 first-dose shots: health officials

More than 76% of eligible people have received their 1st shot

An artists conception of the new terminal building at the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport.
Air travel taking off in B.C., but lack of traffic controllers a sky-high concern

There will be demand for more air traffic controllers: Miller

Canadian Armed Forces experts are on their way to North Vancouver after a local homeowner expressed worry about a military artifact he recently purchased. (Twitter DNV Fire and Rescue)
Military called in to deal with antique ‘shell’ at North Vancouver home

‘The person somehow purchased a bombshell innocently believing it was an out-of-commission military artifact’

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz have set their wedding date for February, hoping that more COVID-19 restrictions will have lifted. (The Macleans)
B.C. couples ‘gambling’ on whether COVID rules will let them dance at their wedding

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz pushed back their wedding in hopes of being able to celebrate it without the constraints of COVID-19

A plane is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., May 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Report calls for airlines to refund passengers for flights halted due to COVID-19

Conclusion: federal help should be on the condition airlines immediately refund Canadian travellers

Green party Leader Annamie Paul speaks during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, June 15, 2021. Paul has survived another day of party strife after a planned ouster shifted course, leaving her with a tenuous grip on power ahead of a likely federal election this year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Green Leader Annamie Paul blasts ‘racist,’ ‘sexist’ party execs who sought ouster

Fallout has continued, with two of the federal council’s members resigning

Most Read