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Pope Francis and Governor General of Canada Mary Simon attend a meeting with civil authorities, representatives of indigenous peoples and members of the diplomatic corps at the Citadelle in Quebec City on July 27.VATICAN MEDIA/Reuters

In a province where Catholicism once dominated many facets of life, Pope Francis renewed his apology to Indigenous people for the harms caused by many Catholic members in government-funded residential schools.

The Pope arrived in Quebec on Wednesday afternoon after spending three days in Alberta, where he had held a public mass that drew tens of thousands and visited a former residential school and a sacred lake. Speaking in the Governor-General’s mansion in the Citadelle of Quebec, Francis said the blame for the “deplorable” residential-school system rests both with the governments of the time and local Catholic institutions that had a part in the schools.

“For this reason, I express my deep shame and sorrow, and, together with the bishops of this country, I renew my request for forgiveness for the wrong done by so many Christians to the Indigenous peoples,” Francis told an audience of about 80 people, including Indigenous chiefs, residential-school survivors, politicians and cardinals who are travelling with the Pope.

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Francis told them the residential-school system was part of an assimilation policy that “harmed many Indigenous families by undermining their language, culture and world view.”

This was the fourth day of the Pope’s visit to Canada for what he has called a “penitential pilgrimage.” On Monday, he travelled to a former residential school in Maskwacis, south of Edmonton, where he acknowledged the “catastrophic” effects of residential schools.

His visit has fostered both healing and controversy. While his apology in Maskwacis drew applause and expressions of forgiveness, many people watching the speech felt he was apologizing for individual Catholics who abused Indigenous students, not for the church as a whole. The wording jarred many Indigenous leaders and residential school survivors, who have been demanding an institutional apology since at least 2015, when the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) included a papal apology among its calls to action.

“It was more than the work of a few bad actors – this was a concerted institutional effort to remove children from their families and cultures, all in the name of Christian supremacy,” Murray Sinclair, former chief commissioner of the TRC, said in a statement issued a day after the apology.

The Pope’s apology also neglected to call out sexual abuse in residential schools or mention the centuries-old papal edicts that helped spark Europe’s colonial aspirations in the Americas. Mr. Sinclair and others expressed hope that the pontiff would elaborate on his apology as the tour progressed.

Tanya Talaga: Pope Francis’s apology was heartfelt and historic. But it left us wanting more

Catholic missionaries ran a majority of the roughly 140 government-funded residential schools that spanned the country from the 1800s to 1969, when Ottawa took over administration functions. The last school closed in 1996. The federal government estimates that around 150,000 Indigenous children attended the schools. Many experienced physical and sexual abuse.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was among those who welcomed Francis to Quebec City on Wednesday. In his first public address about the papal visit, Mr. Trudeau recalled his trip to the Vatican in 2017 to seek an apology from the Pope. It took five years for the effort to succeed – Francis made his first apology in Rome in April in the presence of representatives from First Nations, Métis and Inuit.

Where the Pope will be on visit to Canada

Iqaluit

0

150

KM

NWT

NUN.

Hudson

Bay

ALTA.

MAN.

SASK.

Lac Ste. Anne

NFLD.

Edmonton

QUE.

Maskwacis

ONT.

Winnipeg

Quebec City

UNITED STATES

Montreal

Toronto

Sun., July 24: Depart Rome; arrive Edmonton

Mon., July 25: Edmonton; Maskwacis

Tues., July 26: Edmonton; Lac Ste. Anne

Wed., July 27: Depart Edmonton; arrive Quebec City

Thurs., July 28: Quebec City

Fri., July 29: Depart Quebec City; arrive Iqaluit; Rome

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: TILEZEN; OPENSTREETMAP

CONTRIBUTORS; Bulletin of the Holy See Press Office

Where the Pope will be on visit to Canada

Iqaluit

0

150

KM

NWT

NUN.

Hudson

Bay

ALTA.

MAN.

SASK.

Lac Ste. Anne

NFLD.

Edmonton

QUE.

Maskwacis

ONT.

Winnipeg

Quebec City

UNITED STATES

Montreal

Toronto

Sun., July 24: Depart Rome; arrive Edmonton

Mon., July 25: Edmonton; Maskwacis

Tues., July 26: Edmonton; Lac Ste. Anne

Wed., July 27: Depart Edmonton; arrive Quebec City

Thurs., July 28: Quebec City

Fri., July 29: Depart Quebec City; arrive Iqaluit; Rome

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: TILEZEN; OPENSTREETMAP

CONTRIBUTORS; Bulletin of the Holy See Press Office

Where the Pope will be on visit to Canada

Sun., July 24: Depart Rome; arrive Edmonton

Iqaluit

Mon., July 25: Edmonton; Maskwacis

Tues., July 26: Edmonton; Lac Ste. Anne

Wed., July 27: Depart Edmonton; arrive Quebec City

Thurs., July 28: Quebec City

Fri., July 29: Depart Quebec City; arrive Iqaluit; Rome

Hudson

Bay

ALTA.

SASK.

MAN.

Lac Ste. Anne

NFLD.

Edmonton

QUE.

Maskwacis

ONT.

Winnipeg

CANADA

UNITED STATES

Quebec City

PEI

N.B.

Ottawa

Montreal

N.S.

Toronto

0

150

KM

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: TILEZEN; OPENSTREETMAP CONTRIBUTORS; Bulletin of the Holy See

Press Office

Mr. Trudeau said that reconciliation will be a long journey. “Survivors and their dependants need to be at the centre of everything we do going forward,” he said. “Reconciliation is not a single act but a lifetime journey of healing.

“We all recognize that the residential school system attempted to assimilate Aboriginal children,” Mr. Trudeau said.

Governor-General Mary Simon, who is Inuk, told the gathering that the Pope’s visit signals to the world that he and the Catholic Church “are joining us on our path of reconciliation, healing, hope and renewal.”

At Lac Ste. Anne, Francis tells crowd beating drums ‘echo the beating of so many hearts’

“Reconciliation is a grace that must be earned through continuous hard work and understanding. That work falls to each and every one of us,” Ms. Simon said. “It’s our sacred responsibility.”

After his visit to the Citadelle, Francis headed to the Plains of Abraham, where large crowds had gathered throughout the day for Indigenous and non-Indigenous performers. On Thursday, the Pope is expected to hold the second public mass of his reconciliation tour. It is planned for the National Shrine of Saint Anne de Beaupré.

Pope Francis apologized and asked for forgiveness on his "penitential pilgrimage" for the abuses suffered by Indigenous people at residential schools in Canada. Watch the full statement the Pope made in Maskwacis, Alta. on Monday.

The Globe and Mail

While the Catholic Church has borne the brunt of recent criticism related to residential schools, Ottawa has many of its own outstanding commitments.

The federal government has been scrambling to find historical files concerning the school system since last summer, when the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) released a statement saying Ottawa and the provinces had failed to live up to commitments to hand over documents.

In October, Mr. Trudeau said the government had already relinquished all relevant records, something the NCTR refuted in another public statement.

The Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations has been conducting an internal review to identify and retain all residential school documents since December and is developing a new document disclosure structure to assist the process. To date, Canada has shared more than 1.5 million documents and high-quality images under an agreement brokered with NCTR in January, according to department spokesman Kyle Fournier.

Though reams of federal files are now being turned over, some departments have still not sent over all relevant records, Raymond Frogner, the NCTR’s head of archives, said in an interview.

Ottawa has also been under fire to find and prosecute perpetrators of residential school abuses. On Wednesday, the Department of Justice confirmed that it has asked France to extradite Johannes Rivoire, a 93-year-old former priest who has been charged with sexual abuse in Nunavut. “We are working with Indigenous peoples to advance the important work of reconciliation in Canada,” Justice Minister David Lametti said. “I want to assure you that it is important to Canada and its international partners that serious crimes be fully investigated and prosecuted.”

With a report from Tavia Grant

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