We Are All Treaty People

Statement from the OTC on the papal apology

  • Published - 01/04/2022
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  • Posted By - OTC
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The Office of the Treaty Commissioner listened to the formal apology from Pope Francis delivered today from the Vatican to the Indigenous delegation visiting Rome.

We humbly thank the survivors and delegates from across Turtle Island and especially Dr. Marie-Anne DayWalker-Pelletier for her bravery as a survivor in attending the audience with the Pope. She presented him with small beaded moccasins, not as a gift but as a commitment. He must bring them back in a visit to Canada which he also announced today.

Particularly notable were the Pope's words about why he feels indignation after hearing the stories from elders, youth, and residential school survivors – “because it is not right to accept evil, and even worse to grow accustomed to evil as if it were an inevitable part of the historical process” – he said before speaking on how ideological colonization remains rampant all over the world. 

The acknowledgement of the systemic discrimination faced by Canada’s Indigenous people is an important step in the work of the Catholic church in reconciliation. But it is only a small step.

The residential school system shattered the Treaty promise of education for Indigenous People. It’s one of many Treaty promises that still remain unfilled today. Full implementation of Treaty is key to reconciliation.

There needs to be unrestricted access to the records that residential school survivors, their families and their communities are so desperately seeking. This information cannot reverse the damage caused by residential schools, but it can support the healing process.

There needs to be an apology for the abuses inflicted through residential schools, when the Pope comes to Canada on his trip to visit Indigenous families. This was requested by residential school survivors and their wishes need to be honoured. Muskowekwan First Nations has one of the few remaining schools left standing. The OTC hopes and encourages the Pope to make the trip to our Treaty 4 territory and to Muskowekwan for this apology.

Today’s apology has opened a path for many to move forward, while others still feel conflicted. Emotions are high. We need to continue the journey along this path towards reconciliation, which means continuing the work to seek truth and justice, and raise awareness when it comes to the true history of the genocide that has taken place. Truth comes before reconciliation. This truth must be honoured and cannot be ignored. We must understand the impact and harms of residentials schools intergenerationally.  Our hearts must always be seeking compassionate understanding of what Indigenous people have had to and continue to endure.

If you are a residential school survivor or have been impacted by the residential school system and need help, you can contact the 24-hour Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419, or the Indian Residential School Survivors Society toll free line at 1-800-721-0066.