Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavut May 03, 2018 - 8:00 am

MPs want Pope to apologize for church’s role in residential schools

"Those who attempted to destroy us need to recognize and take responsibility for what they’ve done"

SARAH ROGERS
Inuit children from the western Arctic gather outside a residential school in this undated file photo. MPs passed a motion May 1 asking the Pope to issue an apology on behalf of the Canadian Catholic church for its role in operating dozens of residential schools over the last century. (FLEMMING/NWT ARCHIVES: N-1979-050-0101)
Inuit children from the western Arctic gather outside a residential school in this undated file photo. MPs passed a motion May 1 asking the Pope to issue an apology on behalf of the Canadian Catholic church for its role in operating dozens of residential schools over the last century. (FLEMMING/NWT ARCHIVES: N-1979-050-0101)

Canada’s members of Parliament are calling on Pope Francis to issue an apology for the Catholic church’s role in residential schools.

The apology was one of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 calls to action in 2015.

Call to Action No. 58 asks for a papal apology for the role the church played in establishing and operating the majority of Canada’s residential schools.

The motion, introduced by NDP MP Charlie Angus, also calls on the Catholic church to live up to its “moral obligation” to raise funds towards healing programs for survivors.

And finally, the motion asks the church to turn over any relevant documents as requested by residential school survivors.

“This is a hopeful day—a historic day—but the work is far from over,” said Angus, who is the NDP’s Indigenous youth critic, in a news release.

The motion was the second one tabled since the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops sent a letter to Indigenous leaders in March explaining that Pope Francis wouldn’t personally apologize to survivors.

Instead, the organization said the Pope encouraged Canadian bishops themselves to work towards reconciliation with Indigenous communities.

Bishops later held a news conference on Parliament Hill to try to clarify the Pope’s comments, but did not suggest an apology was forthcoming.

An earlier motion by Angus on April 18 failed to receive unanimous consent to proceed, but a later motion, on Tuesday, May 1, passed 269-10. The group who voted against it was made up of Conservative MPs.

“Let us remember today, and every day, that in order for us to move forward, those who attempted to destroy us need to recognize and take responsibility for what they’ve done, and never let history repeat itself,” said Romeo Saganash, the NDP’s reconciliation critic, in a news release.

Saganash, a Cree from the Eeyou Itschee region of Quebec, attended residential school as a youth and has been vocal about the TRC’s calls to action.

More than 70 per cent of Canada’s 132 residential schools were operated by the Catholic church and the federal government.

The United Church of Canada, the Anglican church and the Presbyterian church each apologized in the 1990s for their own roles in the residential school system.

In 2009, the former pope, Benedict XVI, expressed “sorrow” for the church’s role in residential schools to a delegation of Canada’s Assembly of First Nations, but stopped short of an apology.

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