Survivor awaits papal visit with ‘mixed feelings’

STORY: At this park in Maskwacis, Alberta, final preparations are underway for Pope Francis' visit to Canada.

The pope is expected to apologize for the abuses many faced as children at Catholic-run residential schools.

One survivor is Bruce Cutknife.

He attended Ermineskin Residential School in Maskwacis.

“...The majority of us didn't speak English, and we didn't understand the teacher. And sometimes we didn't respond properly, for which you would be slapped in the face or getting your hair pulled or poked."

Pope Francis will meet with survivors at the site of Cutknife’s former school.

Cutknife doesn’t plan to attend - though he says an apology on home soil would be meaningful.

"I think, in some ways, it's a mixed feeling. In some ways it's like, I can understand the anger and vitriol many people have expressed, especially on social media because of what they feel the church and residential school has harmed their family - not only themselves but their parents, grandparents, and even great grandparents."

About 150,000 children were taken from their homes and brought to the schools, which operated between 1831 and 1996. Many faced abuse, rape and malnutrition.

They were run by Christian denominations on behalf of the government, most by the Catholic Church.

Father Cristino Bouvette, an indigenous Roman Catholic priest, says he was at first reluctant to take on the role of national liturgical director for the visit.

Bouvette’s own grandmother attended a residential school and says she carried a lot of pain from that experience.

"I hope those who have been waiting for it receive what they've been waiting for, and that those who have not - or those who do not want him to come - at the very least are not hurt or disturbed further by it.”

Pope Francis' visit will run from July 24-30 and stop in Edmonton, Maskwacis, Lac Ste. Anne, Quebec, and Iqaluit in Canada’s arctic territory.

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