Reactions to Pope's historic apology to Canada's indigenous people

·3-min read
Pope Francis visits Canada

(Reuters) - Pope Francis on Monday made good on a promise to apologize to Canada's native people on their home land for the Church's role in schools where indigenous children were abused, branding forced cultural assimilation "evil" and a "disastrous error".

Here are some reactions to Pope's apology.

CORNELL MCLEAN, ACTING GRAND CHIEF OF THE ASSEMBLY OF MANITOBA CHIEFS

"It has been over a year since discovering over a thousand unmarked graves of children on Indian Residential School grounds, and we are still mourning them. An apology does not ease the pain of lost children who never returned home, or the legacy First Nations carry as the survivors, their children, and their grandchildren. However, we encourage the church to move forward in the spirit of reconciliation by making concrete commitments and true reparations going forward."

WILTON LITTLECHILD, AN INDIGENOUS CHIEF, LAWYER AND RESIDENTIAL SCHOOL SURVIVOR

The Pope "listened deeply and with great compassion to the testimonies that told of the way our language was suppressed, our culture taken from us, and our spirituality denigrated.” Littlechild added that he hoped "that our encounter this morning, and the words you share with us, will echo with true healing and real hope throughout many generations to come."

RUTH ROULETTE, RESIDENTIAL SCHOOL SURVIVOR IN MANITOBA

She said she believed the Pope was sincere and said she needed to hear him say "I'm sorry." But she felt his speech lacked specificity.

"When he talks about the atrocities that the churches did on our people, he didn’t use the word 'sexual abuse.' ... That’s what happened. It happened. And why did he not say that?"

ELMER ST. PIERRE, NATIONAL CHIEF, CONGRESS OF ABORIGINAL PEOPLES

"This a significant first step towards reconciliation and acknowledging the intergenerational trauma residential schools have had on indigenous peoples across Turtle Island. After failed attempts and a lack of will, it's time the Catholic church make the investments needed to help ensure individuals and communities can heal. It's time the Catholic church open its record books and help uncover the truths behind residential schools and identify the countless children who never returned home. The symbolic gesture of an apology is appreciated and an important first step, but the Catholic church must now focus on reparations and action to ensure reconciliation can be achieved.

JASON KENNEY, PREMIER OF ALBERTA

"This historic apology by Pope Francis today at Maskwacis builds upon decades of truth and reconciliation efforts. It represents a truly historic moment in confronting the dark history of residential schools and Alberta is honoured to have it take place here."

"The government policy of residential schools, in which the churches participated, created deep wounds that are not easily or quickly healed. Yet we saw at Maskwacis both the resilience of Indigenous Peoples in preserving their culture, as well as the goodwill of Catholics and other Canadians to both truth and reconciliation.

"Albertans are committed to partnership with Indigenous Peoples for the flourishing of their communities. The presence of Pope Francis in our province invites us to renew that commitment in light of his encouragement to heal the wounds of the past. The Holy Father’s wise words remind us that such healing cannot only be a matter of policies and programs, but must draw upon the deep spiritual resources of Indigenous and Catholic communities in Alberta. I encourage all Albertans to join Indigenous Peoples in those prayers today."

(Reporting Canada bureau)

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