WENDAKE, QC – As the visit of Pope Francis to Canada begins, the Assembly of First Nations Québec-Labrador (AFNQL) is questioning the intentions of Bishop Raymond Poisson, President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), who told the Le Devoir on July 23, 2022, that “the apology has already been made [at the Vatican]. He added that the Canadian delegation to Rome last April “was the place where the Pope could listen with intimacy, humility and human warmth to the testimonies of survivors” and that the trip to Canada is “another step.”
These remarks were made just days before the meeting that survivors had been waiting for the past thirty years. It is important to recall that the Catholic Church remains the only congregation that has not yet made a direct apology to the survivors to contribute to their individual healing, and the collective healing of Indigenous peoples, for the harm suffered for over a century under the residential school system.
For the AFNQL, the visit to Canada is an opportunity for the Catholic Church, as an institution, to offer a real apology and to allow all those who need to hear it to begin their healing process with the respect they deserve. Thousands of people will travel to Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré in the next few days in the hope of receiving the Pope’s apology in person. Both the Indigenous people’s delegation received at the Vatican last April and the survivors insist on the importance of an apology to be delivered on their ancestral territories, in their presence.
“Indigenous communities are not travelling hundreds or even thousands of kilometres to attend a celebration. They will do so to receive an apology for the physical, psychological and spiritual abuse they have suffered over generations. The visit will be a failure if the survivors, who have had only a few weeks to organize their journey to Québec City, do not hear the apology from Pope Francis himself,” says AFNQL Chief Ghislain Picard.
“We welcome the efforts of Pope Francis to make this trip a priority. Only the survivors can accept the apology and decide to forgive. This will define whether this visit will make it into the history books or not,” said Grand Chief Mandy Gull-Masty of the Cree Nation Government.
About the AFNQL
The Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador is the regional political organization that brings together the 43 First Nations Chiefs of Quebec and Labrador. www.apnql.com/en