The day the Pope came to town

A minute-by-minute breakdown of Pope Francis’ whirlwind trip to Nunavut’s capital

A drum dancer performs in front of Pope Francis during a display of Inuit culture that was part of the papal visit to Iqaluit on Friday. (Photo by David Venn)

By David Lochead

Iqaluit was cloudy and a bit rainy when Pope Francis’ airplane touched down on Friday afternoon.

During his three-hour stay in Nunavut’s capital, Francis met with Inuit residential school survivors and delivered a speech to a crowd of approximatley 1,000 in front of Nakusuk Elementary School.

His weeklong visit to Canada was focused on apologizing to Indigenous Peoples for the abuse and removal of their culture while attending Catholic residential schools.

Nunatsiaq News has documented what the momentous day looked like in Iqaluit. 

3:10 p.m. — Crowd slowly gathers at Nakasuk Elementary School

  • Approximately 150 people gathered in the parking lot and basketball court in front of the school.
  • A central stage is set for the Pope and performances in front of the school entrance, with a seating area to the right for performers and members of the church. There is another seating area below.
  • Children are still playing basketball as the crowd slowly grows.

3:20 p.m. — Security presence in the area

  • At least four officers patrol at the top of the school, with two drones monitoring from the sky as well.
  • Nunavut RCMP Chief Supt. Andrew Blackadar told Nunatsiaq News that extra security from the south was brought up to bolster security for what the police call an “internationally protected person.”

3:30 p.m. — Northmart remains open

3:57 p.m. — The Pope has landed

  • Pope Francis is greeted at the airport by territorial and federal leaders, such as Premier P.J. Akeeagok, Commissioner Eva Aariak and Northern Affairs Minister Daniel Vandal.
  • Back at the school, the crowd has grown to approximately 400 people.
  • There are many people wearing orange shirts and other clothing, signifying solidarity with residential school survivors.

4:04 p.m. — Performances begin 

  • Huqqullaaqatigiit, a group of Inuit singers and drum dancers from Cambridge Bay, begin their performance.
  • They are followed by a pair of throat singers,  Mary Anautalik and Lois Suluk Locke. 
  • Throat singers Akinisie Sivuarapik and Emily Sallualuk, who are sisters from Puvirnituq, also perform.
  • Deantha Edmunds Ramsay, an Inuk classical singer from Nunatsiavut, performs several songs, including Song of the River.

4:05 p.m. — rain sprinkles, but doesn’t pour

5:47 p.m. – Pope arrives on stage

  • The crowd approaches 1,000 people.
  • In the seating area below the stage, people like Premier P.J. Akeeagok and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami president Natan Obed, sit down.
  • Someone can be heard yelling “Every child matters!” in the crowd.
  • Inuit residential school survivor Piita Irniq drum dances with youth drum dancer Malachai Angulalik Malain in front of the Pope. After the performance, Irniq presents the drum to the Pope.

6 p.m. — Scenes from the crowd 

  • Several posters are held up in the crowd, with one saying “Rescind The Doctrine of Discovery,” which was issued by Pope Alexander VI in 1493 to legitimize colonization.
  • Emotions are starting to hit, as a few crowd members have tears in their eyes as they watch the ceremony.
  • Anthony Krótki, the bishop in the diocese for Nunavut, is in the crowd talking with people and watching. 

6:16 p.m. — Pope Francis speaks 

  • The Pope wastes little time getting to his apology, saying, “I want to tell you how very sorry I am and to ask for forgiveness for the evil perpetrated by not just a few Catholics in these schools who contributed to the policies of cultural assimilation and enfranchisement.”
  • The Pope transitions to the beauty of Inuit Nunangat, as well as giving advice to youth, such as the value of teamwork. 

7:03 p.m. — Crowd diminishes as Pope’s speech continues

  • Not everyone stays to the very end of the Pope’s speech.
  • By this time approximately 500 people are left.
  • Children are playing tag in the background.
  • Some of the the VIPS, such as Akeeagok and Obed leave the seated area.

7:17 p.m. Pope finishes speech

  • He concludes by saying: “I bless you from my heart, and to all of you I say Qujannamiik.”

7:19 p.m. Ending the day

  • Before the Pope leaves, he recites the Lord’s Prayer.
  • The day ends with the Pope hand-in-hand with elders as they sing a song together.
  • The Pope leaves to claps and cheers.

— With files from Corey Larocque

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(4) Comments:

  1. Posted by CB on

    Shocked to observe Kotierk, Obed and Akeegok leave before the Pope finished speaking. Would they have left as an Inuk Elder was speaking? Or another Head of State? Akeeagok’s grandfather? Surely it is past time for simultaneous interpretation to be possible at public events in the capital at least, NTI has so much money for lawsuits and consultants protesting the importance of Inuktut. Put your money where your words are. Invest in indoor/outdoor equipment and headsets for such public affairs – for Alianait, for important events, etc., Rent it out, that’s Ok, but make it possible so we no longer come across like some hick town to visitors and things go easier at such events. Listening for 20 minutes in different languages is so much easier than for 60 minutes one language at a time….how come no one has considered this? And some decent sound equipment that allows our musicians’ talents to be properly heard and enjoyed …indoors and out.

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    • Posted by monty sling on

      It’s shameful the trio fought a fight to abolish Edmonton Eskimos and that was a huge time waster including $$$, could they not stay for the duration of the speech? I can never see them again for “the Inuit” …. the trio so shameful ever Larry, Curley and Moe had better manners than that of the trio, NTI, NU and ITK, later day 3 stooges…

    • Posted by John W Paul Murphy on

      And equally shameful was the absence of our Liberal/NDP Member of Parliament,

      Absolutely no excuse for it.

  2. Posted by CB on

    The public housing system is still…up

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