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Nadleh Whut’en First Nation outlines priorities for Vatican meeting with Pope Francis

Chief and Council offer prayers and support for all delegates to the Vatican
Lejac residential school on the shore of Fraser Lake. (National Centre for Truth and Reconcilation photo)

A national 24-hour Indian Residential School Crisis Line is available to support survivors and those affected. You can access emotional and crisis support referral services by calling 1-866-925-4419.

The Nadleh Whut’en First Nation in northern B.C. outlined priorities such as an apology from Pope Francis amid discussions at the Vatican in a statement to the press on Wednesday (March 30).

Nadleh Whut’en representatives are part of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) delegation to the Vatican alongside more than 100 First Nations people from across Canada including residential school survivors, elders, youth and support staff.

Nadleh Whut’en is calling on the Pope to visit the site of the former Lejac Indian Residential School to “further discuss reparations and a better path forward” as part of an apology for the role the Catholic Church played in the residential school system in Canada.

The school was operated by the Catholic Church under contract with the Canadian government from when it opened in 1922 until 1976. First Nations say hundreds of their children were forced to attend Lejac, many never to return home.

Nadleh Whut’en Chief Larry Nooski said the Catholic Church “has yet to apologize, compensate or meaningfully support reconciliation” with Nadleh Whut’en and more than 70 B.C. First Nation communities that had their children taken to Lejac.

“This meeting with Pope Francis, to witness an apology, is a historic moment for Nadleh Whut’en and other First Nations from across Canada,” Nooski wrote.

“Many survivors of the Lejac Indian Residential School carry pain and suffering as a result of abuse from priests and nuns at the school.”

Nadleh Whut’en delegates Eleanor Nooski and Tanya Stump said they will prioritize the return of stolen artifacts and access to Vatican archives.

READ MORE: Nadleh Whut’en delegates prepare for Vatican visit to push for residential school archives

The First Nation is also seeking for Rose Prince to be officially recognized as a saint. Prince died in 1949 of tuberculosis. Since 1990, the devout have held pilgrimages to her grave at Lejac where Father Joules Goulet’s prayers and anointments are said to heal the chronically injured.

The First Nation said discussions with the Catholic Church must also include the “rejection and retraction” of the “doctrine of discovery.” Papal laws gave license to explorers to claim terra nullius [vacant land] in the name of their sovereign and defined “vacant” as not populated by Christians.

Nadleh Whut’en Chief and Council offered prayers and support for all delegates to the Vatican saying the First Nation will continue to seek justice, restitution and apology for the harms committed by the Catholic Church to their children.

READ MORE: Nadleh Whut’en First Nation plans for unmarked grave search at Lejac residential school site


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