Papal Journey of Atonement: This is what Francis expects in Canada

Erneut Hunderte Leichen bei kanadischem Umerziehungsheim gefunden

Chief Gerald Antoine looks confident. He perceived the papal remorse as an important step towards reconciliation in front of some 200 representatives of Native Canadians in Rome in March. Francis’ words “I’m very sorry” reminded him of a stalk in the snow, where you “see fresh moose tracks,” said the head of the delegation to the “Assembly of First Nations.” It now follows what Chief Antoine demanded for the Indigenous people in the Vatican – an official apology from the Franciscans on Canadian soil that suffered thousands of indigenous children in the 19th and 20th centuries, including the Catholic boarding schools where they became “Civilized Christians” should be educated.

The journey is unique. Also because of the reluctance of the Pope to admit the past mistakes of the Church. Francis is distracted by this on his 37th trip abroad. Traveling abroad is about confession by a church.

“Me Culpa” caused a stir outside Canada as well. It is about the forced assimilation of indigenous children into more than 130 boarding schools. Many such “residential schools” were run by the Catholic Church. The government took away the children from their parents and put them in educational institutions. There they were not allowed to speak their language and were subjected to physical and psychological abuse, including sexual abuse. The last school only closed its doors in the late 1990s.

Indigenous people’s expectations

In preparation for the Pope’s visit, the National Indian Residential School Circle of Survivors helped draft an apology that met Indigenous expectations. Shortly before the journey began, he submitted a written draft. The Pope must acknowledge the “grave damage” caused to the victims and apologize. Compensation payment is also required. Indigenous researcher Weldon Coburn of the University of Ottawa said he believes Indigenous people are tired of hearing that someone is “sorry.”

Francis recognizes the dark chapter of the Church in Canada. However, legal experts such as Rob Talach are skeptical about the consequences of a strong gesture by the Pope. He criticizes that little can be said for the last generation of victims in Catholic boarding schools, which have been happening for years. The London-based lawyer has filed hundreds of lawsuits against the church. Almost nothing happened. According to Talach, Francis’ apology “would not make the slightest legal difference” on Canadian soil.

Just this week, the Canadian Bishops’ Conference (CCCB) launched an aid program for indigenous peoples. The fund, established this year, aims to support the reconciliation process with Canada’s indigenous peoples. More than $30 million is available over the next five years. The fund is also filled with donations from 73 Canadian dioceses. So far, about $4.6 million has been raised for reconciliation projects.

sorry as a tactic

“We know that saying you’re sorry can be very useful politically,” said Indigenous researcher Coburn. It can also be misused as a strategy to “disarm the indigenous people”. For example, through conciliation laws that are trying to make out-of-court settlement possible in some Canadian provinces.

But it’s not just about material compensation. For Kimberly Murray, dealing with the suffering of indigenous peoples really only begins after the Pope’s visit. The Canadian government commissioner to locate missing Indigenous children is faced with an incident. According to members of the Kennesatec Mohawk Nation, pity for the plight of the indigenous people is not only insufficient, but also wrong. The victims did not want to stand in this corner.

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In fact, they felt like they were “silent” in a different way, Murray said. They wanted the opposite. So now it should be the turn of the last survivors of residential schools to raise their voice. “You still don’t understand.”

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