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OTTAWA, Canada — Whether or not Pope Francis will apologize to the Indigenous people of Canada for recently discovered graves that contain the remains of children who attended residential schools that were operated by the Catholic church will remain a mystery until at least December.

On Tuesday, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops announced Indigenous leaders will visit the Vatican between Dec. 17 and 20 to meet with Pope Francis. They said the meeting will “foster meaningful encounters of dialogue and healing.”

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The announcement comes in the wake of announcements of the discovery of graves at two Canadian Indian residentials schools. In late May the discovery of the remains of 215 children in unmarked graves at a former residential school site in Kamloops, which is located in the southeastern region of British Columbia was announced. Then, on last Thursday, Chief Cadmus Delorme of the Cowessess First Nation announced the discovery of as many as 751 unmarked graves at the former Marieval Indian Residential School in the province of Saskatchewan, about 1600 kilometers from Kamloops. 

Leading the Indigenous delegation will be Manitoba Metis Federation President David Chartrand. He told The Canadian Press on Tuesday he will be leading a delegation of Metis leaders during a private one-hour session with the pope to ask him to come to Canada to express his apologies and his sorrow for what took place in residential schools and to begin the healing process.

“It will have a greater sense of power and truth to his feelings and his pathway to healing if he comes into the soils of Canada, and stands here on our lands,” Chartrand continued.

One day after the Cowessess discovery was announced, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated publicly that Pope Francis should offer an apology to Indigenous Canadians.

"I have spoken personally directly with His Holiness Pope Francis to press upon him how important it is not just that he makes an apology but that he makes an apology to Indigenous Canadians on Canadian soil," Trudeau told reporters. 

On Tuesday evening, Charles Angus, Member of Parliament (Timmins-James Bay) posted on his Facebook page:

“I am pleased that Pope Francis will meet directly with Indigenous leaders on the crimes committed in the residential schools and the need for the Catholic Church to be accountable

I have met twice with the Pope's ambassador to Canada and told him the Church must respond to the TRC and Parliament and issue the apology to Indigenous people on Canadian soil. I have told him to ignore the Canadian Bishops who have been running interference.

He said, ‘these things are complicated.”

I responded, Truth is not complicated. It is about having the will to take responsibility and to do the right thing.’”

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About The Author
Levi Rickert
Author: Levi RickertEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Levi Rickert (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation) is the founder, publisher and editor of Native News Online. Rickert was awarded Best Column 2021 Native Media Award for the print/online category by the Native American Journalists Association. He serves on the advisory board of the Multicultural Media Correspondents Association. He can be reached at [email protected]