Join us on Facebook: www.fb.com/occupythevatican
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he will seek a formal apology from Pope Francis for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in residential schools, a day after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission made public its final report into the legacy of the schools.
The commission, in its 94 calls to action, called upon the Pope to apologize to residential school survivors and their families for the 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.”
Trudeau’s comments came during a news conference after he met the leaders of five national aboriginal organizations in Ottawa on Wednesday to discuss the findings of the commission.
Asked if he would urge the Pope to apologize, Trudeau said “different churches, including the Catholic Church, are very much engaged with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and I am certainly intending to work with the Catholic Church, including with the Holy See, to move forward with implementing that recommendation — to ask him directly to engage with this issue, yes.”
‘The Catholic Church is the only church that has not formally apologized to the survivors.’ – Perry Bellegarde, national chief for the AFN
Trudeau said he couldn’t be sure of the Pope’s response, but he was prepared to have a conversation with him, given the opportunity.
“I’m not going to pretend that it is my job to order other governments or other organizations to do anything, but I certainly look forward to a constructive engagement where we can address this issue, because quite frankly, there are multiple levels of different organizations that have a role to recognize in this terrible part of Canada’s past.”
“I look forward to having a conversation with His Holiness about this,” Trudeau said on Parliament Hill.
Former prime minister Stephen Harper met with Pope Francis at the Vatican in June and drew his attention to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 calls to action, which include the request for an apology.
Harper was criticized by the opposition parties and other critics for not being more direct.
First Nations seek audience with pontiff
Perry Bellegarde, the national chief for the Assembly of First Nations, said an apology from the pontiff would help redress the legacy of residential schools and advance reconciliation between indigenous people and the Roman Catholic Church.
“We are going to continue our efforts to get an audience with the Pope,” Bellegarde said, “because really, the Catholic Church is the only church that has not formally apologized to the survivors.”
“Getting an audience with His Holiness is very important to bring about healing and reconciliation for their role in the imposition of the residential school system.”
The final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission found that while various representatives have offered their apologies for the involvement of their churches in residential schools, “the result has been a patchwork of apologies or statements of regret that few survivors or church members may even know exist.”
“Roman Catholics in Canada and across the globe look to the Pope as their spiritual and moral leader,” the commission said in its final report made public on Tuesday.
“Therefore, it has been disappointing to survivors and others that the Pope has not yet made a clear and emphatic public apology in Canada for the abuses perpetrated in Catholic-run residential schools throughout the country.”
In 2009, the Vatican issued a statement saying that Pope Benedict XVI “expressed his sorrow at the anguish caused by the deplorable conduct of some members of the church.”
The statement came following a private audience with the leaders from the Roman Catholic community in Canada and a delegation of aboriginal leaders, which included former national chief for the AFN Phil Fontaine.
‘Feeling guilty’ not enough
Trudeau met for approximately two hours this morning with Bellegarde and Congress of Aboriginal Peoples Chief Dwight Dorey, Native Women’s Association president Dawn Lavell-Harvard, Métis National Council president Clément Chartier, and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami president Natan Obed.
“We talked about a number of specific issues, but also engaged directly on how we’re going to work together collaboratively to address these problems … and opportunities concretely,” the prime minister said.
Trudeau reiterated his commitment to addressing the “fundamental inequality” between indigenous and non-indigenous Canadians.
“I think it’s natural for people to feel guilty about mistakes of previous generations, but I don’t think we should be wallowing in it or thinking that just feeling guilty is enough. Let’s put that energy and that desire towards fixing things,” Trudeau said.
Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and Status of Women Minister Patricia Hajdu — Trudeau’s lead ministers for the government’s inquiry into murdered and missing indigenous women — were also part of the talks.
Reporters also saw Health Minister Jane Philpott, Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly and Employment Minister MaryAnn Mihychuk entering the meeting Wednesday morning.
Trudeau has vowed to work with the leaders of the aboriginal organizations, the provinces and territories, parties to the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement and other key partners in responding to the commission’s 94 calls to action.
“I’m announcing that we will work … to design a national engagement strategy for developing and implementing a national reconciliation framework, including a formal response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action,” he said Wednesday.
In June, the commission put forward 94 ways that Canada can redress the legacy of residential schools and advance reconciliation.
Trudeau has committed to implementing all 94 calls to action.