Pope’s speech on residential schools is insufficient, no mention of survivors: lawyer

KAMLOOPS (NEWS 1130) – A local religious leader said Pope’s comments about the discovery of 215 Indigenous children at a church-run boarding school were insufficient.

Pope Francis expressed grief on Sunday but did not apologize this weekend.

During his regular Sunday public prayer at a rally in St. Peter’s Square, Francis said he “follows with sadness” the news of an unmarked burial site. He added that the “shocking” discovery is a call to Canadian religious and political authorities to continue working for reconciliation.

Reverend Carmen Lansdowne is the Executive Director of the First United Church Ministry Society in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver and a member of the Heiltsuk First Nation. She says her address does not meet the needs of survivors, who are the ones asking for an apology.

Lansdowne says she understands he met a pair of Canadian cardinals on Saturday as pressure mounts for the Catholic Church to take action and accept responsibility for the residential school system that has targeted Indigenous children for decades. However, his attempt to fix the issue also came too late and didn’t even mention the survivors.

“I join the Catholic Church in Canada in expressing my closeness to the Canadian people traumatized by the shocking news,” said Francis. “This sad discovery increases awareness of the pain and suffering of the past.”

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“He expresses his closeness to the Canadian people,” says Lansdowne. “It is very clear that the Residential Schools victimized and traumatized generations of Indigenous children and families, and this is never acknowledged in anything he published today.

“Whether or not it is an admission of responsibility, I think the restitution is owed by the Roman Catholic Church to the survivors,” she adds.

In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI met former students and survivors and shared with them his “personal anguish” over their suffering. But his words were not described as an apology.

Lansdowne says The United Church has taken responsibility and is committed to fully implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action.

“I am personally an ordained native minister, and I want us to see each other go further,” she said.

“It’s still a living story for us. The last boarding school closed when I was in third year of college, and I’m only 45 years old. It is the living history and living legacy of residential schools and an assimilation of the politics that sought to eradicate Indigenous peoples from Canadian society. And every Canadian has to accept that.

In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI met former students and survivors and shared with them his “personal anguish” over their suffering. But his words were not described as an apology.

Kamloops Indian Residential School was the largest such institution in Canada and was operated by the Catholic Church between 1890 and 1969.

Chief Rosanne Casimir of the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation in British Columbia has said her nation wants a public apology from the Catholic Church. The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, who have run nearly half of the residential schools in Canada, have yet to release any records on the Kamloops school, she also said.

The United, Presbyterian and Anglican churches apologized for their role in the abuses, as did the Canadian government, which offered compensation.

Among the many recommendations of a government-established Truth and Reconciliation Commission was a papal apology.

A National Residential Schools Crisis Line is available to anyone affected by Residential Schools. You can call 1-866-925-4419 24 hours a day for emotional support and services.

– With files from the Canadian Press and Frances D’Emilio with The Associated Press

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