Pope Francis attends a community event near Nakasuk Elementary School in Iqaluit on Friday afternoon. In his speech, the Pope asked forgiveness and referred to the ‘indignation and shame’ he felt about Canada’s residential schools. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)
A panel of First Nations chiefs and residential school survivors spoke to media Thursday. Elder Gordon Burnstick from Alexander First Nation, Rod Alexis from Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation, Chief Tony Alexis from Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation, Treaty 6 First Nations Grand Chief George Arcand Jr., Ermineskin Cree Nation Chief Randy Ermineskin, Louis Bull Tribe Chief Desmond Bull and Alexander First Nation elder Victoria Arcand spoke at the event. (Jamie McCannel/CBC)
Pope Francis will make stops in Alberta, Quebec and Nunavut from July 24 to 29 to apologize in person for the wrongs done to Indigenous people by Roman Catholic priests and nuns who ran abusive residential schools in Canada.
“So the evidence is there. You can see the way we are, our behaviours and how we walk through life, the struggles that we had, and the difficulties that we had — difficulties sometimes in learning, difficulties in relating to one another, difficulties in marriage, difficulties with alcohol.”
– Mabel Brown, residential school survivor
“We can forgive, but we’ll never forget what happened, and the pain, we’ll always carry the pain until the day we die.”
– Linda Daniels , residential schoolsurvivor
Nunavut educator and politician Edna Elias wants Arctic groups to apply to a government fund dedicated to monuments honouring residential school survivors, and children who never returned home.
In 1879, Carlisle Barracks became the site of the nation’s first government-run Indian boarding school. It was operated by the Department of the Interior until 1918. Under the motto of “kill the Indian, save the man,” it tried to forcibly assimilate 7,800 Native American children from more than 140 tribal nations through a mix of Western-style education and hard labor. At least 186 children died there, of disease often made worse by poor living conditions and abuse.
While residential schools may have ended in Canada, their legacy and generational trauma has not.
The Manitoba Métis Federation says it plans to conduct its own investigation into a retired priest now charged with indecent assault at a residential school in the province.
Beginning in the late 1800s, approximately 150,000 Indigenous children were separated from their families and forced to attend residential schools, facilities that aimed to replace their languages and culture with English and Christian beliefs. The schools were set up by the Canadian government and most were run by the Catholic Church.