Responses From Some Indigenous Leaders on the Historic Papal Apology

July 05, 2022

For many survivors of residential schools and their families, the Papal apology was all they hoped to hear, for others it did not go far enough. Here are some thoughts from notable Indigenous leaders on the apology, the implications, and their hopes for the next steps on the journey to reconciliation.

The Honourable Murray Sinclair, former Senator and former Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and General Counsel at Cochrane Saxberg Law Firm
Murray Sinclair
Photo: Shutterstock

I want to acknowledge the Pope’s apology today. This is an important moment for Indigenous peoples, for Canada and for Catholics around the world. It is long past time that the Church will begin to take responsibility for its role in the Residential School System. It was a dark chapter of Canada’s colonialist history, one which the Church was a key co-author.

While the apology is an important milestone, there is still much work to do. On the strength of this historic acknowledgement, the Church must push forward to address deniers within their congregations. The stories of residential school Survivors belong in Church services and Sunday schools. It was a great injustice that Catholics – and all people – must learn from. 

You can read the full statement from the Honourable Murray Sinclair here.

Natan Obed, President of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami
Nathan Obed
Photo: Shutterstock

The apology that was made was long overdue. It is also an apology that individual survivors and intergenerational survivors all will have very different feelings and perspectives about today... Today we have a piece of the puzzle. We have a heartfelt expression from the church that was delivered by Pope Francis in an empathetic and caring way. I was touched by the way in which he expressed his sorrow and also in the way he condemned the actions of the church in particular regards. There is much more to do so when an apology is part of a larger picture. We also are here this week to bring light to Johannes Rivoir, a Catholic oblate who is in France, who we wish to be extradited to Canada to face charges of sexual abuse.

You can listen to Natan Obed’s remarks here.

Chief Dr. Robert Joseph
Chief Dr. Robert Joseph
Photo courtesy of Chief Dr. Robert Joseph

I listened to Pope Francis’s apology this morning and I really welcomed his statement and I applaud the delegation that went over to the Vatican to meet with him... Every step in reconciliation is important and apologies are significant and valuable. So, the apology that the Pope made was not complete but was a very good step... the part that was missing from the apology this morning was the part where he should apologize on behalf of the institution, the Roman Catholic Church for its role in the operation of those residential schools... there are so many things we can now ask the Roman Catholic Church to work with us on for reparations for healing.

You can listen to Chief Dr. Robert Joseph’s remarks here.

Cassidy Caron, President of the Métis National Council 

As Métis people we have struggled for recognition for many years. We were of course included in the Constitution in 1982 but until 2016 we continued to struggle for recognition. And here we are today, we are being heard on an international level and we feel heard and we feel recognition... All of the messaging we brought to Pope Francis has come from hours spent with our survivors and intergenerational survivors so that we could do what we could to represent the diversity of the Métis Nation and the diversity of their perspectives. And in Pope Francis's statement today I see that we were heard... He truly reflected the way that we are.

You can listen to Cassidy Caron’s remarks here.

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