M’CHIGEENG—While Pope Francis apologized for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in residential schools last week, the regional chief for the Chiefs of Ontario says it will not mean anything until the same apology is made in Canada.
“To me, the apology from the Pope doesn’t mean anything until he comes here to Canada and apologizes,” said Glen Hare, Regional Chief for the Chiefs of Ontario. He explained, “I had declined participating as part of the delegation to Rome because I believe, and still do, that the trip was for the survivors of the residential schools to make, not me.”
“I’ll participate when the Pope comes to Canada to apologize and the apology should be made in Canada directly to our people,” said Chief Hare.
Chief Hare continued, “and I don’t think the apology will make a difference until we bring every last child home from the residential schools is home. I have heard that the last count is 4,100, and there will be more.”
Chief Hare said that the release of the names and records of all the missing children from residential schools need to be provided to Indigenous leaders.
Pope Francis has apologized for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in residential schools. The Pontiff, speaking in Italian, asked for God’s forgiveness for the deplorable conduct of members of the Catholic Church.
“I want to say to you with all my heart: I am very sorry,” Pope Francis said during a final meeting with First Nations, Inuit and Metis delegates at the Vatican. “And I join my brothers, the Canadian bishops, in asking your pardon.”
Each of the groups had expressed hope that the Pope would apologize for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in the residential school institutions. A date has not been set for the Pope’s trip to Canada, but delegates said it could be as soon as this summer.
An estimated 150,000 Indigenous children were forced to attend residential schools, and more than 60 percent of the school were run by the Catholic Church.
Phil Fontaine, a former Assembly of First Nations National chief said it was the right time for an apology. He said last week that the pressure on the Roman Catholic church is immense after the discovery of unmarked graves at former sites of residential schools across Canada.
Regional Chief Hare relayed a story about abuse that took place in one of the residential schools. “We held a ceremony in Garden River last Monday with chiefs and people from 18 residential school sites. One gentleman told us that when he was young, maybe six and a half years old, every morning at school the priest would ask the class or pick someone to read aloud the Lord’s Prayer.
“One day, the priest’s finger stopped at this man who was young at the time, and told him, ‘you will read the prayer today,” said Chief Hare. “Well, he was nervous and sweating when he was asked to read the prayer. So, he started to read the prayer saying, “Our Father who is not in heaven yet and his name is Charlie….the priest slapped him and told him to sit down. This is just one example of the type of thing that took place.”