Papal visit: apologies to the Aboriginals “for the evil committed”

Papal visit: Apology to Natives «for wrong done»


Pope Francis on Monday personally apologized to Indigenous peoples “for the harm” caused over decades in the Canadian residential school system, a “devastating mistake” he said.

The pontiff delivered these much-awaited words on day two of his Canadian visit, to the site of the former Ermineskin residential school, about 100 kilometers south of Edmonton, Alberta.

“The policies of assimilation have ended up systematically marginalizing indigenous peoples […] Your languages ​​and your cultures have been denigrated and suppressed”, he lamented.

“Children suffered physical and verbal, psychological and spiritual abuse,” he said, saying he was “distressed” and referring to a “devastating error” to be shared with the governments of the time.


“With shame and clarity […], I humbly ask forgiveness for the evil committed by many Christians against indigenous peoples,” said the Holy Father in Spanish.

Pope Francis has thus become the first head of the Catholic Church to recognize these painful facts and to convey his apologies directly to the survivors and their families, on their territory.

Some thousands of people, including several experienced the violence of the residential schools, had come to hear him, under a fine rain and in an atmosphere heavy with emotions.

In April, he delivered his first apologies and began the process of reconciliation, in the presence of indigenous delegations received at the Vatican.

Affected survivors

These words resonated as far away as Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, near Quebec City, where several members of Indigenous communities are already waiting for the Pope to visit on Thursday. .

“Hearing him talk about reconciliation, about healing, it really touched me,” Chantale Awashish, a residential school survivor from Obedjiwan, told the Journal.

“He named things, he clearly recognized what happened in residential schools and he asked for our forgiveness. And he repeated it more than once, it was important to me,” she said.

For the Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador, Ghislain Picard, this apology represent an “important step”, but it will be up to the survivors to measure the real impact.

According to Gilles Routhier, full professor in the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies at Laval University, this first address by the pope during his Canadian “penitential pilgrimage” probably met the high expectations he faced.

< p>“He did not stay on the surface […] He spoke at length about the pains, the sorrows and the wounds”, he noted.

– With the collaboration of Pierre-Paul Biron, Jean-Luc Lavallée, AFP and Vatican News

Some 65,000 people are expected Tuesday for an outdoor mass at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton. The pope will then land in Quebec on Wednesday.

The drama of the residential schools

  •  130 residential schools from 1831 to 1996, including a dozen in Quebec
  • Establishments funded by the federal government and mainly administered by religious leaders
  • 150,000 children Inuit, Métis and First Nations people separated from their families, many of whom have been victims of physical or sexual abuse
  •  Between 3,000 and 6,000 deaths, most before 1940
  • A “cultural genocide” according to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada
  • 1,300 anonymous graves discovered in 2021 near residential schools

Sources: Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, The Canadian Encyclopedia, AFP and Le Journal archives

Wounds still painful

It was the least we could do for the Pope to show up here in Canada and apologize. I also hope that it will be repeated at the other places he will frequent during his trip. »

– Rémy Vincent, Grand Chief of the Huron-Wendat Nation

“The Pope's visit leads me to realize that these wounds are not healed. […] For me, it's a small step forward […]. »

– Dr. Stanley Vollant, Innu surgeon and founder of the Puamun Meshkenu organization, whose mother was a resident

“For us, what is important is is that the truth, that the light be shed on all the actions of the Church, in particular on the Indian residential schools. »

– Thérèse Niquay, director of community services and projects in Manawan and residential school survivor

“These are words that all survivors without exception deserve to hear. It is part of a collective but also individual healing process. »

— Ghislain Picard, Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador

“Reconciliation is the business of all Canadians. It is up to us to be open, to listen and to share. […] No one should forget what happened in residential schools in Canada, and we must all ensure that it never happens again. »

— Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

— Interview by QMI Agency and Jean-Luc Lavallée, Le Journal de Québec

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