Mar 28, 2022 - World

Canada Indigenous groups seek apology in meeting with Pope Francis

Indigenous delegation representatives at the Vatican
Canada's Metis National Council President Cassidy Caron poses other leaders on March 28 at St. Peter's square in The Vatican. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP via Getty Images

Pope Francis on Monday met with Indigenous leaders from Canada who are seeking an apology for the Catholic Church's involvement in running residential schools that abused Indigenous children for decades.

Driving the news: Pope Francis has so far declined to apologize for the church's role in Canada's past policy of removing Indigenous children from their families to attend the state-funded residential schools.

The big picture: Nearly 150,000 Indigenous children are believed to have passed through about 150 residential schools, which the Catholic Church ran from the 19th century until the 1970s.

  • Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission has described the operation as nothing short of "cultural genocide."
  • Indigenous groups and others renewed calls for an apology last year after the discovery several unmarked mass graves at the sites of former residential schools.
  • The Canadian government, the Presbyterian Church, the Anglican Church and the United Church of Canada have previously apologized for their role in running the residential schools.

Details: The pope met with delegations representing the Métis and the Inuit on Monday, and will meet with First Nations representatives on Thursday before hearing from all three groups on Friday.

  • The meeting was scheduled in December but delayed due to the pandemic, per the New York Times.

What they're saying: “We hope that in committing to us, committing to real action, the church can finally begin its own pathway towards meaningful and lasting reconciliation," Cassidy Caron, president of the Métis National Council, told reporters.

  • "We hope the Pope heard our stories ... that he translates those stories from his head to his heart and then into action," Caron added.
  • "Reconciliation didn't begin today with a meeting with Pope Francis and it doesn't end here either."

Francis had previously committed to traveling to Canada, although no date has been set.

  • Prior to the Monday's meeting, the Métis Nation said it hopes Francis will make a formal apology during his visit to Canada.
  • “The significance of a Papal apology on the very soil that residential school atrocities occurred cannot be stressed enough. It must be done here, in Canada. Reconciliation with the Métis Nation can only begin with the Church accepting full responsibility for the traumas it inflicted," Caron said in a statement last week.
  • "It must then be followed by a true commitment to working alongside the Métis Nation on its pathway of truth, justice, and healing."
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