Pope Francis’ apology for the Catholic Church’s role in the Canadian residential school system was an important first step, Indigenous delegates say—but it still needs to be followed by concrete action and a visit to Indigenous territory.
“For some people this was absolutely historic, it was so important for them to move forward in their healing,” Métis National Council President Cassidy Caron told CTV News Channel. “For others, it was a little bit less significant. For some, they’re really looking for concrete actions and accountability from the Catholic Church.”
Caron was one of the delegates who travelled to the Vatican to meet the pope ahead of the April 1 apology. So was Cree Nation Youth Grand Chief Adrian Gunner.
“I think it was very crucial and important that young people were there,” Gunner told CTV News Channel from Mistissini, Que. “We’re going to be the next generation to come to carry on the works that’s going to be done.”
His grandparents are both residential school survivors. Immediately following the pope’s apology, Gunner called his grandmother.
“She said that some people did in fact need it,” Gunner recalled. “Some others haven’t—some have already moved on in their healing journey.”
Both Caron and Gunner await the pope’s promised trip to Canada, which is expected to happen this summer.
“He did in fact give an apology in his own turf, but people believe that he should also do it on our turf too where a lot of these so-called schools were,” Gunner said.
“To have the pope come here and make that same apology, but also maybe hopefully a stronger apology here on our homelands to as many survivors as we can bring to those locations, that would be a huge success for us,” Caron added from Ottawa. “But of course, we’re also still looking for a little bit more, and the pope himself said that any truly effective process of healing requires concrete actions.”
Such actions, Gunner says, should include helping create access to clean drinking water and working towards ending systematic racism in Canada.
“Truth needs to come before reconciliation,” Caron said. “We need to be talking even though it’s hard. These stories are hard to listen to, and it’s hard to comprehend that these things happened. We need to tell the truth.”