Iqaluit should roll out the red carpet to Pope Francis

Pope’s Canadian apology needs to take place among the people hurt by residential school system

Pope Francis, seen here speaking at the Vatican on April 1, is coming to Iqaluit as part of a weeklong tour of three Canadian cities this summer, announced the Vatican Friday morning. (Screenshot courtesy of Salt and Light Media)

By Corey Larocque

Pope Francis should include Nunavut in his itinerary when he comes to Canada to apologize for the Roman Catholic Church’s involvement in the residential school system later this year.

It’s an obvious setting for him to make the symbolic gesture that many Indigenous leaders, including many Inuit advocates, have tirelessly worked for.

We learned two weeks ago that the Pope plans to make that apology on Canadian soil. A papal apology — in Canada — is one of the calls to action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report.

Now that we know he is coming, it’s only a question of where and when.

There are three broad groups of Indigenous Peoples — Inuit, First Nations and Métis. Each one was affected in their own way by the residential school system, which existed for a century and served as a way to remove Indigenous children from their communities and separate them from their culture.

Furthermore, each group sent a delegation to the Vatican last month for that week of meetings with the Pope that led to his historic apology in Rome, which came as a relief to so many, at the end of those sessions.

So how would the Pope pick one community over another for his apology on Canadian soil? Certainly, it would be more meaningful for him to make this gesture in an Indigenous community than from the pulpit of a cathedral in an urban setting like Montreal, Ottawa or Toronto.

He needs to do it in an Indigenous community, near a place where so much misery was perpetuated, and among the people who are living with the direct or intergenerational effects of the legacy of the residential schools.

It would make sense if the Pope were to make three apologies — one to each of the three Indigenous groups. There was more than enough sin committed in the residential school system to warrant more than one papal mea culpa.

Many Indigenous communities are small and remote. It might be difficult for them to handle the logistics of a papal visit. While it would be fitting to see the Pope visit Chesterfield Inlet or Rankin Inlet, the sites of some of the more notorious northern residential schools, it might be too big a challenge.

It’s hard for the Holy Father, who can’t go anywhere without an entourage that includes a phalanx of security and a pack of journalists in tow.

Iqaluit, however, has the advantage of being easily accessible by plane from Ottawa (an important consideration for the 85-year-old pontiff) and with the infrastructure needed to accommodate such a big and historic event — including meeting space, hotel rooms, and vehicles.

It might seem crass to jockey for a papal visit.

But this visit will be historic — cathartic. A meaningful papal apology in Canada is a crucial step on the path to reconciliation. It’s essential that the gesture be done well and that nothing is left to chance. The eyes of the world will be on the Pope and on Canada. More important, the eyes of the victims of residential schools and their families will be on him, too.

Whenever it comes, the Pope’s Canadian apology needs to take place as close as possible to the people who were hurt by the church’s involvement.

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(16) Comments:

  1. Posted by Why Iqaluit? on

    He should be going to where the original 215 little bodies were found. Ukkivik Residence wasn’t run by Catholics.
    Political photo ops happen in Iqaluit because its too far and expensive for protesters to travel. And who in Iqaluit is going to object. Have some guts and face the First Nations!

    • Posted by Itti Pow! on

      If it wasn’t Catholic why would he go there?

    • Posted by Paul on

      Yes, its his turn to confess.

    • Posted by anon on

      The Catholics ran an absolutely brutal residential school in Chesterfield Inlet. The pope needs to apologize to Inuit.

  2. Posted by Stephen M on

    It is a world apart the Catholic School vs Ontario Public School systems. That was what I found when my sons enrolled for a year or 2 in N Ontario Catholic school. When a pope directs them the school and teachers will respect the decree.

  3. Posted by Ajungi, Corey! on

    Nice editorial, Corey. Very inoffensive and anodyne. Not that I blame you after all the flack you took for the last one. Good to play it safe sometimes eh? Thumbs up to you.

    • Posted by The anodyne niche is vibrant on

      I was especially impressed with this: ” There are three broad groups of Indigenous Peoples — Inuit, First Nations and Métis.”

      This is clearly the work of an inspired public educator.

  4. Posted by Arrest on

    If the pope comes to Canada, he should be arrested.
    There’s a little matter of unpaid inherited debts, broken contracts, dereliction of duty, and the concept of responsibility for the actions of those under you.

    • Posted by JOHNNY on


  5. Posted by All in on

    Roll out the red carpet? Are you kidding? The suggestion to jockey for the Pope to attend Iqaluit is sad. A government town that’s doing so well, with many many making 6 figure salaries and have 2-3 vehicles in the drive? The effects of kidnapping children run very deep in Nunavut’s smaller communities. The ones with high rates of poverty, unemployment and low rates of education and literacy. Those are the after effects of the horrendous residential “schooling” administered by the catholic church. Let the Pope visit and see this. Why candy coat while so many continue to suffer? Rolling out a red carpet will nicely shield the man we expect will provide an apology for his Church’s wrong doing. Let’s not make things too comfortable.

  6. Posted by No carpet, just dirt roads on

    No community should roll out anything for the pope, nor should they care. Apology or not, there should be no forgiveness. There is no reason for people not to move on without an apology.
    Forget the pope.
    Forget the church.
    All the Christian Inuit are living under a religion indoctrinated upon them or their parents/grandparents through often brutal means yet they continue to support this fairy tale.

    • Posted by Deciding for me? on

      I suppose an alternative that these Christian Inuit you speak of you be indoctrinated in your atheism? Who are you to dictate to Inuit who would find a visit from the head of the Catholic Church for a long overdue apology very sentimental and critical to reconciliation?

      • Posted by josywales on

        Typical response from a heavily religious indoctrinated individual. Atheism is just another word used for people who do not follow their way of thinking or people disagreeing with them.

  7. Posted by Le croq on

    Corey LeCroq ??way to read your audience. .

  8. Posted by Umingmak on

    Quite the opposite. The pope should be sanctioned and banned from entering Canada.

  9. Posted by Crazy Idea on

    Here’s a crazy idea.

    Why don’t we ask the survivors of the Catholic-run Residential Schools where they think it should be?

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