Judge fails pope’s apology


Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission into the historic abuse of Indigenous people demanded apologies.

Pope Francis apologised on Monday. Not everyone thinks it was enough.

Some regard Francis’s words as a “historic” moment of reckoning for the 150,000 Indigenous students forced to attend residential schools.

But a former judge and senator who chaired the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission finds the apology lacking.

Murray Sinclair says it fell far short of demands and expectations.

The Commission’s final report included many “calls to action”.

No. 58 asks the Pope to apologise within the year “for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical and sexual abuse of First Nations, Inuit and Métis children”.

Seven years later, Francis has said he is “deeply sorry” for the way “many Christians supported the colonising mentality of the powers that oppressed the Indigenous peoples”.

Romeo Saganash, a former MP who is a Cree from northern Quebec, is disappointed.

He thinks lawyers pre-checked Francis’s apology to ensure no trace of liability remained.

Saganash’s brother John died aged six at a residential school. There were no records or acknowledgement. It took a chance encounter 40 years later before the family learned where he was buried.

John’s name was included on a red memorial banner at Monday’s papal address. It marked him as one of 4,000 Indigenous children who died or never returned from residential schools.

Francis was photographed on Monday kissing the red banner.

His demonstration of contrition rang false for Saganash.

He wasn’t impressed by Francis’s apology on 1 April either. That’s when he apologised for the actions of “a number of Catholics”.

He omitted any mention of sexual abuse or deaths that occurred at residential schools, however.

Saganash says Monday’s apology is insufficient. “We haven’t advanced in terms of the [April] apology that is required on behalf of the church”.

A Quebec Cree community chose not to participate in the papal visit.

Instead, it is focusing on an annual gathering to help residential school survivors and their families heal from the trauma they endured.

Another group is planning a protest in Montreal.

They noted in the Iroquoian language when European settlers arrived that there were no words for saying “I am sorry”, only for saying “I will make it right”.

Cindy Blackstock is disappointed too.

She’s Gitxsan and the executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada.

The Pope’s apology began by recognising the Governor General and the prime minister – colonial offices, she notes.

Residential School Survivors and the children who died came second. But they’re the ones to whom this apology is properly addressed, she says.

“Francis spoke of the future but was light on accountability and action. He peppered his apology with requests for God to forgive the Church.”

However, there is still time to ensure this apology has meaning, she says.

Blackstock has made up a list of actions for him to commit to on behalf of the Church and the Holy See.

Many relate to Indigenous people’s rights, decolonisation, children and justice.


Additional reading

News category: World.

Tags: , , ,