OTTAWA – The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) is finalizing details for a meeting with Pope Francis in Vatican City as part of broad efforts to seek justice for genocide in Catholic-run residential institutions, including to seek an apology to be delivered in Canada. A delegation of First Nations survivors and leadership will gather with the head of the Catholic Church March 31, 2022. The gathering will include separate meetings with Inuit and Métis delegates and a cultural presentation.
The AFN says, “Pope Francis has announced he will visit Canada to meet with survivors and intergenerational trauma survivors on their traditional territories in 2022.”
“Since the beginning, as told in our Creation stories, we are the original nation of families of these lands. It has always been our hope of a good life for our children, grandchildren and the ones who have yet to come that our work is based in. When the European sovereign arrived on our shores, their international laws known as the doctrines of discovery was applied to our lands and denied us our existence as human beings.
We began to experience relentless attempts to destroy our way of life. We were uprooted, displaced and relocated from our home. However, we have never given up our teachings and how we perceive our existence.
Meeting with Pope Francis is an important step as we continue to address the Catholic Church’s culpability about genocide and complicity in what many First Nations children experienced in the institutions. It was responsible for managing, including in many instances, the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical, and sexual violence inflicted on our children,” said AFN Northwest Territories (NWT) Regional Chief Gerald Antoine, who is leading the AFN delegation to Rome.
“The examples all constitute evidence of the genocidal intent in forcefully removing Indigenous children from their families. Our delegates are messengers for all Survivors when we seek acknowledgement of the truth, an acknowledgement of where the permissions directed the responsibility for the destruction caused against our peoples and children and to rescind the Papal Bulls of 1493.”
The AFN delegation includes Survivors of Residential Institutions of Assimilation and Genocide, two youth representatives and 13 First Nation delegates representing the AFN. The delegates represent Indigenous Peoples from coast to coast to coast. The AFN acknowledges the work and leadership of former NWT Regional Chief Norman Yakeleya for his efforts leading up to this important gathering.
Michelle Schenandoah, a traditional member of the Onʌyota’:aka (Oneida) Nation Wolf Clan of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, and Fred Kelly, a citizen of the Ojibways of Onigaming of the Anishinaabe Nation in Treaty #3 and an Elder in Midewin, the Sacred Law and Medicine Society of the Anishinaabe will accompany the delegation.
The delegation seeks acknowledgement of the claim by the Roman Catholic Church related to the right of domination over everyone and everything and its role in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical and sexual violence of First Nations in Catholic-run Residential Institutions to be delivered by the Pope in Canada.
The delegation will call on the Pope as the Head of the Holy See, the Vatican and the Catholic Church to repeal the Papal Bull of 1493 issued by his predecessor Pope Alexander and all other Papal Bulls that enshrined the doctrine of discovery that led to the genocide of Indigenous peoples in all regions of the world.