Iqaluit starting to plan for Pope’s arrival

City will be responsible for road closures, paramedic response

Pope Francis apologizes at the Vatican in April for the role the Catholic Church played in residential school system abuses. He’s coming to Canada next week to make another apology, on Canadian soil. (Screenshot from Salt and Light Media)

By Emma Tranter

Iqaluit has started to plan for the arrival of Pope Francis when he visits the Nunavut capital in July.

The Vatican announced earlier this month the Pope will be in Canada from July 24 to 30, with stops in Iqaluit, Edmonton and Quebec City. The Vatican has not specified yet which day the Pope will be in Iqaluit.

Iqaluit city councillors discussed the highly anticipated visit at their council meeting Tuesday night.

Coun. Joanasie Akumalik said as far as he knew, no one from the Vatican had yet reached out to the city.

“I think our residents, I think they’re kind of waiting on what our status would be on the visit,” Akumalik said.

Mayor Kenny Bell later clarified during the meeting, after receiving a text from Amy Elgersma, the city’s chief administrative officer, that someone from the Vatican had reached out to city staff earlier that day.

Bell said the Vatican told Elgersma the city will need to help with road closures and the fire department will have to provide a designated ambulance and paramedics for the Pope.

“We are ready and willing to help where we can … I’m very happy that he’s chosen our city to be one of the sites that he’s apologizing at,” Bell said.

“We want to make sure that we’re part of the team as well, but I didn’t know until just now.”

The Pope’s trip to Canada follows meetings he had with delegates of Inuit, Métis and First Nations at the Vatican in late March. At those meetings, he apologized for the role the church played in abuses against children  in Canada’s residential school system.

Coun. Romeyn Stevenson, who works for the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, said his organization and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. have already been involved in initial meetings to plan the Pope’s visit.

Stevenson said the city should have been invited to these initial meetings.

“This is going to be a really overwhelming event … The city’s part of it is probably going to be small, but it will be logistical,” he said.

“There’s going to be an outdoor event and it’s going to be massive … There’s going to be an emotional response to the visit that’s going to be significant for our citizens.”

Coun. Simon Nattaq said he wants to see a mental health worker on site during the visit to offer support for survivors and their families.

Bell said he met with an Ottawa RCMP member regarding the service’s presence in the city during the event. He also said members of the Pope’s team are in town to do more site visits.

“Maybe once they’ve seen the venues, we’ll know a little more,” Bell said.

Bell said he would not be in town for the Pope’s arrival, but Deputy Mayor Solomon Awa would welcome him in his place.

More details on the city’s involvement with the visit will be discussed at the next council meeting, Bell said.

That meeting is scheduled for June 14, according to the City of Iqaluit website.


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(14) Comments:

  1. Posted by ChrisT on

    The freaking Pope is coming to Iqaluit and the Mayor is a no-show??!
    What gives? Does it clash with his anger management class that day?
    This guy is just so petty and totally lacks any class at all.

    • Posted by CB on

      I am glad Mayor Bell will not be in town for the papal visit. As a citizen and a Catholic, I found his comments about our church and the Pope offensive and discriminatory. No tax payer’s faith should be mocked. As a citizen and a woman, I find his violence extremely objectionable, especially his violence against a woman as reported on CBC news this morning. Bell should resign immediately.

  2. Posted by pissed off on

    this is going to be a very big event watched by the world.
    Yet already the communications seem fuzzy to say the least.

    The various parties involved need to sit down together very quickly to figure out who will be responsible for what.
    The Pope is 85 years old and will need special attention . The mass of people that will want to come will have to be dealt with one way or another. Airlines, accomodations will need tight coordination on the way in and out.
    Just hoping that people realize what they will be expected to deal with .
    Thank you

    • Posted by Northern Guy on

      I hope that the City is ready because there will be Catholics and media pouring in from all parts of the territory as well as far beyond. This will not be a low key low level visit by any standard.

  3. Posted by Umingmak on

    Arrest him and his entire entourage the moment they land.

    • Posted by Northern Guy on

      Sorry Dude the Pope is a head of state. You could no more arrest him than you could Joe Biden, should he decide to come for a visit.

  4. Posted by Honestly on

    are Inuit mostly Catholics?
    Or is Iqaluit a soft hit for sure media coverage?

    • Posted by Make Iqaluit Great Again on

      I also found it a bit strange that the Pope chose Iqaluit as one of his few Canadian stops. The vast majority of Inuit in Iqaluit and the south Baffin region are Anglican if they follow any denomination. There were no church run residential schools in Iqaluit or the Eastern Arctic (Thank God). So all of this makes you wonder why he chose Iqaluit, as opposed to Kamloops BC, which has plenty of hospitals and services for the Pope, and is close to one of the most notorious residential schools.

      Happy for Iqaluit but understand the anger/disappointment of indigenous groups in the south about the Pope’s itinerary.

  5. Posted by Massive eh? on

    The event will be “massive”? Really? 8000 people reside in Iqauit and only 38,000 men women and choldren in the ENTIRE territory….this event won’t be any larger than most southern Christmas Parades so let’s not exaggerate here. Not sure why the City is flexing so hard around this…. perhaps we can use some of the funds the City will recieve from the support provisions required for this even to address the significant charges pending later this year from the QEC fee structure changes….. something good may come from this after all…..

    • Posted by Northern Guy on

      You’re ignorance is showing. The last time a Pope visited Canada was 20 years ago in 2002. During that visit 800,000 people attended one of his outdoor masses. I would not be very surprised if the Pope’s visit to Iqaluit doubled or even tripled the city’s population. He is a very big deal to Canada’s Catholics.

      • Posted by hawnly on

        How, exactly would that work? How would double or triple the population even fly in all at once? Are they just going to stay in tents? This is not Toronto. And thank goodness for that, because the crowd completely trashed that area and ended up destroying a local business as a result and the church didn’t so much as acknowledge it.

  6. Posted by ponder on

    Dude, plan to parade the gravel roads!!! Get ’em paved! 🙂

    • Posted by OMG on

      So does this also mean we get fibre for internet???? Imagine….no longer having to wait on a satellite link for medical results!! Wow!! A miracle!

  7. Posted by Crystal Clarity on

    Unfortunately, as a head of state representing the Catholic Church, like any head of state the Pope has to bare the brunt for any wrong doings of past heads/governments. But keep in mind Pope Francis has been admired from day one as a humble and modest person, from very modest beginnings in Argentina South America, a very good man by all accounts. He has apologised for the Church’s actions towards indigenous peoples (the first Pope to do so BTW) and is coming in person to do this again. It is an important visit and another step towards reconciliation.


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