An apology from the Vatican won’t erase history of what happened to Indigenous people inside church-run residential schools in Canada, but for the roughly 30 elders, keepers knowledge and survivors in the residential field it still matters.
“It’s something we’ve been waiting for over 150 years,” Angie Crerar, 85, a Metis elder and residential school survivor, told reporters on Thursday.
Groups of First Nations, Inuit and Metis will head to Rome (not Vatican City?) and spend at least an hour with Pope Francis over three days later this month.
Expectations of an apology are very high.
Back in 2009, Indigenous Canada leaders visited Pope Benedict XVI, where he expressed grief, but the leaders said his words failed to translate into “sorry”.
“Those words are pretty simple on paper, easy to write,” said Gary Gagnon, a member of the upcoming Metis delegation. “But they’re hard to tell.”
In September, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Canada issued a separate apology for the church’s role in the systematic abuse of Indigenous peoples, but even speaking to reporters on Tuesday, On Wednesday, the Bishop of Calgary William McGrattan tried to take a positive stance on the issue.
“They get the other gift of learning,” he said. “But [we’re] also acknowledge that their language and culture are sometimes suppressed. “
An estimated 150,000 Indigenous children have been removed from their homes and placed in residential schools. Gagnon said the visit to the Vatican was an opportunity to speak on their behalf.
“We’re trying to give voice to people who don’t have a voice by going,” Gagnon said.