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What Indigenous Leaders Think About Pope Francis’ visit to Canada:

Edited by Megan Cambruzzi

Warning: This article contains distressing information regarding residential schools and abuse.

On Wednesday, October 27th of 2021, the Vatican published news that Pope Francis was willing to make a visit to Canada. The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops invited the Pope to catalyze a much-needed Reconciliation process with the Indigenous people of Canada.

The Pope’s willingness to travel to Canada on an undetermined date sparked discussions amongst the Indigenous community and leaders. A simple visit is not sufficient enough to reconcile with the Indigenous community. Leaders are hoping for an apology for the Catholic Church’s involvement in residential schools. Cowessess First Nation Chief Cadmus Delorme believes that a papal apology is, in fact, the first step towards reconciliation.

“An apology is the beginning… an apology is required, and the rebuilding of a relationship would follow the apology.”

Cheif Cadmus Delorme (2021)

The news of the Pope’s visit comes months after Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nations reported of discovering 200 burial sites in a Catholic-run former residential school in British Columbia, Kamloops. Since then, there have been numerous findings of unmarked graves in multiple residential schools around Canada.

To validate the pain and suffering of survivors, the Catholic Church and the Pope himself must take accountability and apologize for the Church’s history in Residential Schools.

A general apology with empty words does not mean anything and is insensitive. An apology is a step towards reconciliation. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has reported asking Pope for Francis to commit to a number of restitution measures. He also asked for the publication of records associated with Canada’s residential school system. Despite the Pope’s expression of his sorrow regarding the recent tragic discoveries, no such documents were published.

The Catholic Church must take ownership of its role in Canadian residential schools, not only with an apology but with transparency and following through with promised financial reimbursement.

Although Pope Francis is the first Pope to express his willingness to rebuild and heal the Church’s relationship with the Indigenous community, there is a lot of pressure and expectance–rightfully so– from the Indigenous people of Canada.

The Vatican has not indicated if there is an intended apology from the Pope; however, it is overdue and something Indigenous people need in order to be able to consider reconciliation and healing from the horrors they have endured.

A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to support residential school survivors and others triggered by the above readings. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.


Malone, Kelly Geraldine. “Indigenous Leaders Seek Apology as Pope Plans Canadian Visit – National.” Global News, Global News, 28 Oct. 2021, https://globalnews.ca/news/8329434/pope-francis-canada-indigenous-leaders-apology/.

“Vatican Must Take Action on Residential School Abuses If Pope Visits Canada, Says Survivor | CBC Radio.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 28 Oct. 2021, https://www.cbc.ca/radio/thecurrent/the-current-for-oct-28-2021-1.6228258/vatican-must-take-action-on-residential-school-abuses-if-pope-visits-canada-says-survivor-1.6228781.

Monisha Date

U Toronto '23

Monisha Date is currently pursuing a degree in Human Biology and Immunology and a minor in Physiology at UofT (St.George). She aspires to work in the medical field in the future. She is a very extroverted and vocal person and thus she developed a keen interest in writing. Monisha loves to add her own voice to her pieces and hopes her writing can spark some conversation and inspiration for others. She strives for writing pieces that not only are factual but leave the reader satisfied and thinking! Along with writing, she has a passion for dancing, fashion, cooking, and look for new food spots in Toronto. So if you want some recommendations for places to eat, she is your go-to girl!
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