'I can just feel the healing': Pope Francis apology received at Maskwacis, speaks at Sacred Heart Parish
The head of the Catholic church delivered on Monday an apology to Indigenous people on their own land for its role in Canada's residential schools and the traumas experienced there.
In Treaty 6 territory in Alberta, at the site of one of the country's federally funded church-run schools, Pope Francis spoke to First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples across Canada.
"I am here because the first step of my penitential pilgrimage among you is that of again asking forgiveness, of telling you once more that I am deeply sorry. Sorry for the ways in which, regrettably, many Christians supported the colonizing mentality of the powers that oppressed the Indigenous peoples. I am sorry," Francis said, referencing the first apology he made to an Indigenous delegation in Rome in April.
Francis spoke in Maskwacis, south of Edmonton, at the site of the former Ermineskin Residential School which operated until 1975.
"I ask forgiveness, in particular, for the ways in which many members of the Church and of religious communities cooperated, not least through their indifference, in projects of cultural destruction and forced assimilation promoted by the governments of that time, which culminated in the system of residential schools," Francis continued.
"Although Christian charity was not absent, and there were many outstanding instances of devotion and care for children, the overall effects of the policies linked to the residential schools were catastrophic. What our Christian faith tells us is that this was a disastrous error, incompatible with the Gospel of Jesus Christ."
Francis repeatedly called the apology, the first event of his Canadian tour, a "first step."
"An important part of this process will be to conduct a serious investigation into the facts of what took place in the past and to assist the survivors of the residential schools to experience healing from the traumas they suffered."
He alluded to the many invites from across Canada he received and will not be able to accept.
"The words that I speak throughout this penitential journey are meant for every native community and person. I embrace all of you with affection," Francis said.
Following his apology, Francis was gifted a traditional headdress.
An estimated 2,000 people, almost all residential school survivors, elders and knowledge keepers, were seated inside the arbour – a gathering area traditionally used for powwow – where Francis spoke. Room was reserved for another 4,000 immediately outside the ring.
During the Pope's remarks, the crowd broke out into applause and cheers three times when Francis asked for Indigenous people's forgiveness, said the residential school system was worthy of an investigation, and was presented with the headdress.
"It was really emotional and I thank him for coming here," one woman who had travelled from North Dakota told CTV News Edmonton. "A lot of times it's hard to say sorry, and I can just feel the healing there."
Both she and a day-school survivor, Anthony Favel, said they were satisfied by Francis' apology.
"I think it was enough. I think it clarified what he wanted to say and it's the first step to reconciliation," Favel commented.
The North Dakota woman added, "His apology was from his heart and it was good."
Connie Jules, a residential school survivor travelled from Kamloops, B.C., to attend the ceremony. She also was part of the delegation that travelled to Rome in March.
She said this was a more comfortable experience than her time in Vatican City.
"It just made me feel like I was going to a bigger residential school," Jules said.
She made the 10-hour trip to Maskwacis with Kúkpi7 Rosanne Casimir — the First Nations chief who invited Pope Francis to the site of the former Kamloops Indian School.
"His words were different, and they seemed more heartfelt (this time)," Jules said.
"And he did address the suffrages. He definitely addressed the traumas that were inflicted and the shame he had for the atrocities that took place," Chief Casimir added.
- Everything you need to know about the Pope's visit to a former Canadian residential school site today
- Pope's Alberta trip includes Maskwacis residential school visit, Commonwealth Stadium mass
Some wanted more accountability from the Catholic Church for the wrongs of residential and day schools.
"There could have been more deep, deep discussions about the exact things that happened that nobody wants to talk about," said Eileen Clearsky.
"I want more," said Evelyn Korkmaz, St. Anne Residential School Survivor and advocate. "Fifty years is too long to wait for an apology."
Grand Chief George Arcand Jr. of the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations hoped the apology marked the start of further actions to help promote healing.
"I think the Pope is genuine, but he has a big institution," Chief Arcand said. "In order for him to move his people and change things, he's got a big challenge."
SACRED HEART PARISH VISIT
Pope Francis returned to Edmonton and met parishioners and Indigenous community members at Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples, where he delivered a discourse on reconciliation.
Bill Perdue and Candida Shepherd, parish council representatives, welcomed the Pope and explained how the parish blends Catholic and Indigenous traditions, and was recently reopened after an accidental fire in 2020.
Shepherd, a Métis Nation of Alberta member, said the parish not only bridges cultures but helps serve those in most need, including homelessness, addiction, and poverty — legacies traced to trauma from colonialism and the residential school system.
"Our church is a place where the survivors of residential school trauma can come with their families and gather as an inclusive community," Shepherd said."Our church is a place where we will continue to preserve and revitalize Indigenous art and music, instilling pride in our future generations."
"We thank you, Holy Father, for hearing our voices," said Perdue, who has Métis and Irish heritage. "Your presence today gives us the opportunity to confront, to understand, to release, and to transcend our trauma."
- Parishioners return to Sacred Heart of the First Peoples Church
- ‘Sad, dark day’: Fire damages 107-year-old church in central Edmonton
The event was invite-only; priority was given to members of the Sacred Heart Urban Indigenous community.
The Pope spoke in Spanish for more than 20 minutes, expressing sorrow for how the residential school system "contributed to assimilation" that "inculcated a sense of inferiority, robbing communities and individuals of their cultural and spiritual identity."
"Education must always start from respect and the promotion of talents already present in individuals," Pope Francis said. "It is not and nor can it ever be something pre-packaged and imposed."
"If we think of the lasting pain experienced in these places by so many people within ecclesiastic institutions, we feel nothing but anger, shame," he added. "That happened because believers became worldly, and rather than fostering reconciliation, they imposed their own cultural models."
Francis said faith should never have been "drill(ed) into people" and that Sacred Heart Parish demonstrated an example of living in a spirit of reconciliation at a "local level." He added that "healing requires concrete actions."
"We must accept each other's history and culture and allow the mystical aspect of togetherness," he added, "to foster the healing of wounded memories."
With files from CTV News Edmonton's David Ewasuk and Chelan Skulski
If you are a former residential school survivor in distress, or have been affected by the residential school system and need help, you can contact the 24-hour Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419. Additional mental-health support and resources for Indigenous people are available here.
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
As the holiday season approaches, food banks across Canada are desperate for donations due to an increasing amount of clients. As inflation hits all Canadians, those who feel the impact most are the vulnerable communities with the highest food insecurity rates.
In the first footage of its kind, scientists captured the moment a pod of orcas hunted great white sharks in South Africa.
“No democrats!” multiple women say when asked what they're looking for in an advertisement for the Right Stuff, a dating app for Conservatives backed by Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel, which launched in the U.S. last week.
TREND LINE | Nanos projections show Poilievre's Conservatives winning more seats than Trudeau's Liberals
If an election were to be held today, the Conservative Party would win more seats than the Liberals, potentially enabling Pierre Poilievre to become Prime Minister, the latest seat projections from Nanos Research show.
Hockey Quebec says it has lost confidence in Hockey Canada and will not transfer funds to the national organization. The provincial federation confirmed that its board of directors adopted a motion Tuesday night saying it does not believe Hockey Canada's current structure can change hockey culture.
On the heels of another tense hearing with Hockey Canada's past and current board chairs defending the organization, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and MPs were unequivocal on Wednesday in their condemnation of Hockey Canada's resistance to making changes that they say are necessary.
Starting Thursday, businesses in Canada will soon be able to pass credit card fees on to their customers, thanks to a multimillion-dollar class-action settlement involving Visa and Mastercard.
François Legault may have changed his separatist strategy but he hasn’t changed his stripes, former NDP leader Tom Mulcair says in an exclusive column on CTVNews.ca.
It's been six months since a Canadian airline crew was detained in the Dominican Republic after finding drugs on board and reporting them to the authorities.
Premier Jason Kenney, speaking a day ahead of the UCP leadership vote, said he is uncertain of his political future, but is proud of what he's done for Alberta.
Police have put a name to a man believed to be behind a pair of arsons in the northwest Calgary community of Varsity.
Alberta Parks is warning visitors to Kananaskis country against relying solely on AllTrails, a crowd-sourced app, that the organization says has placed hikers in peril.
The chief forensic pathologist for the Saskatchewan coroners service took to the stand in Saskatoon on Wednesday for the trial of Ranbir Dhull.
Following his $1 million lotto win, Rollins Head was in such a state of disbelief he checked his ticket at two different stores.
With rising inflation across the country programs that provide free food in Saskatoon are contending with unprecedented need.
Saskatchewan residents are paying more to attend live concerts, theatre performances and art gallery exhibitions following an expansion of the provincial sales tax.
A Regina woman who was convicted in 2019 for embezzling millions of dollars has been granted her appeal and a new trial has been ordered.
McKell Wascana Conservation Park is officially the Regina Wetland Centre of Excellence serving as an outdoor classroom for science students at Dr. Martin LeBoldus Catholic High School.
More than 16,000 customers in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island are still without electricity 12 days after post-tropical storm Fiona hit the Maritimes on Sept. 23. The ongoing outages and restoration efforts have prompted the Nova Scotia government to declare a state of emergency in several counties in northern Nova Scotia.
Post-tropical storm Fiona changed the coastline of Prince Edward Island forever, however nowhere is more obvious than the P.E.I. National Park on the island’s north shore.
After struggling financially for months, the owners of a Fall River childcare centre says the end is near: the doors will close next month.
A man has died in hospital after a stabbing in Toronto’s Allan Gardens park Tuesday evening.
Businesses in Ontario will be allowed to pass on credit card fees to customers starting on Thursday. There are a few things businesses and consumers need to know.
A Walmart and high school in Caledon, Ont. were evacuated Wednesday after police said they received information about a possible bomb threat.
Hockey Quebec says it has lost confidence in Hockey Canada and will no longer transfer funds to the national organization.
Organizers of the Montreal Pride need to pay for security, communicate better, and hire more experienced staff to avoid another repeat of the devastating cancellation of the parade next year, according to a post-mortem report into the August 2022 fiasco.
The new rule allowing businesses in Canada to pass credit card fees onto customers will not apply in Quebec.
Ottawa city councillors may soon need to disclose personal relationships with city staff to the city’s integrity commissioner.
A Cornwall developer says a dispute with the city has stopped construction on numerous projects in the downtown core, including a plan to build 200 affordable housing units by 2026.
Mayoral candidate Mark Sutcliffe said Wednesday that he would hold property tax increases to between 2 and 2.5 per cent in the first two years of his term, if he is elected mayor of Ottawa.
The family of a man with a service dog who was forcibly removed from a Kitchener, Ont. restaurant last fall, is speaking out after assault charges against the two men involved were withdrawn.
The process to remove a truck that crashed into a building in Atwood a month ago started on Wednesday, as portions of the building were torn down to help dislodge the truck.
The Region of Waterloo is reminding business owners to start winterizing their property while avoiding over-salting surfaces.
Two recent incidents of adults trying to lure children have North Bay and area parents and caregivers on edge.
Candidates vying to be Sault Ste. Marie’s new mayor say a few issues appear to be top of mind for voters: homelessness, drug addiction and mental health.
Another major curling event is taking place in North Bay this week. The Pinty's Grand Slam of Curling is on until Sunday, featuring some of Canada's best curlers competing and staying in North Bay.
More than one-third of Winnipeggers believe people who have occupied public spaces in the city should be allowed to stay there briefly, according to a recent poll.
The Winnipeg Police Service has charged five more people after an encampment was cleared at the Manitoba legislature on Tuesday.
A legal battle hangs over the race for mayor in the R.M. of St. Andrews north of Winnipeg, a dispute that on Wednesday reached the Manitoba Court of Appeal.
Lewd gestures, 'malicious lies' and a bag of dog feces in a car among allegations in B.C. neighbours' dispute
A dispute among neighbours that devolved into daily drive-by insults and accusations that a bag of dog feces was deliberately left in one person's car was adjudicated by B.C.'s small claims tribunal this week.
A Vancouver man used two false identities to conceal the fact that he owned nearly one-quarter of a publicly traded company's shares, according to the regulator of B.C.'s financial markets.
A B.C. man who has been counter-protesting anti-vaccine rallies every Saturday for months says things took a violent turn last week when he was shoved into traffic, had his head slammed into the pavement, and was repeatedly struck in the face.
B.C. Premier John Horgan says the New Democrat government's crime-fighting agenda involves more than increasing arrests of alleged violent offenders. Horgan says he agrees with Attorney General Murray Rankin who told the legislature on Tuesday that a focus on more arrests of prolific offenders to curb crime would be “futile.”
The B.C. Conservation Officers Service (BCCOS) has confirmed that two African servals are on the loose in the Qualicum Beach area of Vancouver Island. The exotic cats have killed a domestic cat, according to the BC SPCA.
The B.C. government says that 54 doctors have signed contracts with the province to provide full-time family doctor service after the Ministry of Health announced a signing bonus and other incentives earlier this summer. On June 21, the province announced it would be offering a $25,000 signing bonus as well as medical training debt forgiveness up to $130,000 to new family doctors who agreed to work in B.C. for five years.