The Vatican says the Pope will soon visit Canada and seek reconciliation, but local advocates say, without an apology for the Catholic Church’s role in residential schools, that can’t happen.
“I think it’s really important to honour that wish, and for their journey in healing after what the churches did to them,” said Michelle Robinson.
An apology from Pope Francis is the 58th Call to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In June, the Pope spoke in St. Peter’s Square and ‘shared sorrow’ but did not apologize after the finding of over 200 unmarked graves at a former Kamloops residential school – the first of many findings across Canada.
“It’s something that a lot of First Nations people in Canada ….there’s a lot of mixed feelings,” said Reuben Breaker.
Breaker is a councillor for the Siksika First Nation east of Calgary, where many residential school survivors live. He says the Pope’s visit is long overdue, but an apology is not enough.
“Today, ‘I’m sorry’ doesn’t mean nothing. Those are just words,” said Breaker.
“And with all these findings that are going on across the country, it’s pretty hard to put into words an apology. We knew all along, they knew all along, apology is one thing. The real meat and potatoes of any statement is the action.”
Robinson agrees, this trip to Canada, and a potential apology, are only one small part of a long-embattled relationship between the Church and Indigenous people.
She also says Canadians must get on board with the 231 calls for justice and those 94 calls to action – as this trip may only fulfil one of those things.
“They have a mandate – they have to start fulfilling it.”
There are several other calls from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada directed at the Catholic Church – some of which have been fulfilled.
As of now, there is no date set for the Pope’s visit.