Nunavut premier calls Pope’s visit to Iqaluit ‘opportunity’ for apology

Catholic Church has yet to confirm itinerary for trip to Canada, including which communities Pope Francis will visit

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 Meral Jamal

Nunavut’s premier says he is “encouraged” to hear Pope Francis will stop in Iqaluit during his Canadian tour later this year.

“I believe that the Iqaluit visit will be another opportunity to engage with survivors of residential school and their families and to offer an official apology for the church’s role in the systemic oppression of Inuit,” P.J. Akeeagok said in an email statement this week.

The Pope is planning to come to Canada on a “pilgrimage of healing and reconciliation,” according to the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The move comes after the Pope met with an Indigenous delegation in Rome in spring, seeking an apology for wrongs suffered at the hands of Catholic representatives in Canada’s residential school system. 

They got that apology on April 1. 

Media reports last week suggested the itinerary will include Iqaluit, Edmonton and Quebec City during what is likely to be a four-day trip in late July.

But the Vatican hasn’t publicly confirmed any dates or locations yet.

The City of Iqaluit said it has not been notified of an official visit, according to spokesperson Aleksey Cameron. 

However, Natan Obed, president of Inuit Tapariit Kanatami, told CBC last week that his organization was involved in a site visit to Iqaluit by Vatican officials earlier this month, describing it as positive.

ITK’s spokesperson, Patricia D’Souza, declined comment when Nunatsiaq News asked about the scouting visit.

Laryssa Waler Hetmanczuk with the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops says “the focus, themes, and programming of the visit, if and when it is confirmed, will also be shaped in close consultation with Indigenous partners.”

The visit might also be different from previous papal visits, given the Pope’s “advanced age and desire for simple, modest visits,” Hetmanczuk said.

This would be Pope Francis’ first visit to Canada. 

According to the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops website, Canada has received three papal visits in the past, all by Pope Saint John Paul II.

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(5) Comments:

  1. Posted by Marie-Lucie Uviluq on

    It would be more appropriate and ideal, if the apology is located in Chesterfield Inlet. Where the Catholic residential school was located, where the sexual, physica, mental abuse happened. Where the Church and Canadian Government tried to assimilate the Eskimo children.
    Iqaluit was not where the Catholic residential school was located.
    It would be more meaningful to the former students of Catholic schools.
    Think, where the Catholic priests, brothers and Nuns did, this hould not be for public relations. Let it not be polical, but to honor the former students of IRS.

    • Posted by Tanya Tungilik on

      I agree, it should be in Chesterfield Inlet, or alternatively, in Rankin Inlet (the central hub of the Kivalliq). I understand he needs to be close to the hospital because of his failing health, but if he’s only going to be in Nunavut for a few hours anyway, why not have it in Chesterfield or Rankin? It would mean a lot more if he was closer to the actual residential school, where a lot of Kivallingmiut had been sent to.

  2. Posted by Logistical Reality on

    Does Chesterfield have the infrastructure to support the Pope’s aircraft, security detail, and all the rest of the very substantial material that accompanies him?

    I’d be very surprised, but maybe it does. If it doesn’t, would it be worth putting it in place for a 3-hour visit?

  3. Posted by I agree on

    I agree it should be held in Chesterfield Inlet. Chesterfield is where the school was, Chesterfield is where the greatest damage was done. If not Chesterfield, then Rankin Inlet.
    For Inuit, it started at Turquetal Hall.

    • Posted by Accept In The Spirit That It Is Given on

      And now it is done, so an apology given anywhere serves the purpose.


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