Madahbee outraged by Pope Francis’ letter to Indigenous Peoples of Canada

Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee. – Photo by Jody Kechego
Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee. – Photo by Jody Kechego

Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee with Indian Residential School survivor Charlotte Contin and her daughters Dot and Judy.
Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee with Indian Residential School survivor Charlotte Contin and her daughters Dot and Judy.

Roman Catholic Church ignores Truth and Reconciliation Commissioners recommendation

Nippissing ON—Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee responded to a  letter released to the Indigenous Peoples of Canada.   Pope Francis stated that he cannot personally issue an apology to residential school survivors and their families for the role the Roman Catholic Church played in the operation of the schools and abuses inflicted upon students.

“All other denominations have publicly apologized for their role in the Indian Residential School system in Canada.  The Government of Canada has apologized.  This has opened the door for reconciliation and healing,” said Madahbee.  “The Roman Catholic Church, despite having stripped away our children’s Spirit, language and identity through the predatory abuse in biblical proportions, have yet to acknowledge the unfathomable atrocities preventing our people from moving forward.  They continue to turn a blind eye to the deplorable behaviour that caused intergenerational trauma.  The Bishops have been talking out of both sides of their mouths – talking about reconciliation out of one side and then advising against apologizing from the other.”

A papal apology is #58 of the 94 Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) recommendations. This recommendation is similar to the apology offered by the Pope in Bolivia in 2015 where he ‘humbly [asks] for forgiveness, not only for the offense of the church herself, but also for crimes committed against the native peoples during the so-called conquest of America’.

“The overwhelming disappointment and outrage that overcame me upon learning of the Pope’s refusal to apologize reflects the sentiment echoed by our citizens across the Anishinabek Nation,” said Madahbee. “We would welcome acknowledgement of the Church’s heinous crimes committed against our people and an apology from Pope Francis similar to that made to the Indigenous peoples in the Americas for the Church’s ‘grave sins’ against them during the colonial era before considering any kind of reconciliation with the Catholic Church.”

The federal government’s church-run residential school system was created for the purpose of assimilating Indigenous children by removing the children from their homes and communities and forcing them into schools where they were not allowed to speak their language or engage in cultural practices. During this time, more than 150,000 Indigenous children were placed in residential schools and many reported being physically, psychologically, and sexually abused at the hands of Catholic priests, nuns, or other educators.

Text of TRC Recommendation #58

  1. We call upon the Pope to issue an apology to Survivors, their families, and communities for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children in Catholic-run residential schools. We call for that apology to be similar to the 2010 apology issued to Irish victims of abuse and to occur within one year of the issuing of this Report and to be delivered by the Pope in Canada.