Call to Action # 58: Background Content

Indigenous leader comments after Pope's apology

July 27, 2022

Chief Roseanne Casimer comments after Pope’s visit to Lac Ste. Anne

ICT: Indian Country Today: LAC STE. ANNE, Alberta, Canada — They gathered at the water as they have for as long as anyone can remember. Laughing voices with strong Cree accents. Filipinos switching casually between English and Tagalog. Murmurs in French and Spanish among the crowd.

They are the faithful, and they came from around the world to the place the Dakota call Waka Mne, or Holy Water, and the Cree call Manitou Sakahigan, or Spirit Lake, to witness Pope Francis pray at the sacred waters of the lake.

A day after he offered an apology at Maskwacis First Nation and on the second day of his visit to offer penitence to Indigenous peoples across Canada for the Catholic Church’s role in the ugly residential school history, the Pontiff visited Lac Ste. Anne where the celebration of Indigenous Catholicism is at its peak.

Inuit, First Nations and Métis Catholics shared their version of the Gospel with drums, fiddle and throat-singing. It was not performative – it was not put together for the Pope’s visit like the quickly paved roads in Maskwacis. This is the way it is and will be again. 

Traditional drums accompanied the Pope as aides helped him in his wheelchair to the edge of the lake, where he sat in silent prayer. He dipped a brush into the waters of the lake to sprinkle onto the crowd.

Pope Francis visits the Lac Ste. Anne pilgrimage site in Alberta, Canada, Tuesday, July 26, 2022. Pope Francis traveled to Canada to apologize to Indigenous peoples for the abuses committed by Catholic missionaries in the country's notorious residential schools. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Pope Francis visits the Lac Ste. Anne pilgrimage site in Alberta, Canada, Tuesday, July 26, 2022. Pope Francis traveled to Canada to apologize to Indigenous peoples for the abuses committed by Catholic missionaries in the country’s notorious residential schools. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

“In this blessed place, where harmony and peace reign, we present to you the disharmony of our experiences, the terrible effects of colonization, the indelible pain of so many families, grandparents and children,” the Pope told the crowd. “Help us to be healed of our wounds.”

He arrived on the day of the Feast of Saint Anne, the grandmother of Jesus – an event that draws thousands of Cree, Mėtis, Blackfoot, Dogrib and First Nations Indigenous people to the lake. The celebration had a pow wow atmosphere, with Cree, Dene, Inuit and other Indigenous languages prominent throughout the day in song, introductions and prayer, broadcast over loudspeakers and from giant video screens.

Chiefs listen to Pope Francis at the Lac Ste. Anne pilgrimage site in Alberta, Canada, Tuesday, July 26, 2022. Pope Francis traveled to Canada to apologize to Indigenous peoples for the abuses committed by Catholic missionaries in the country’s notorious residential schools. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Chief Roseanne Casimer, Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc

Chief Rosanne Casimir of Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc, previously known as Kamloops Indian Band, was waiting at the waters for the Pope to arrive. She said that as soon as she found out the Pope would not travel to Kamloops she made plans to travel to Lac Ste. Anne.

Chief Rosanne Casimir of Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc, previously known as Kamloops Indian Band, was waiting at the waters of Lac Ste. Anne for the Pope to arrive on Tuesday, July 26, 2022. She said that as soon as she found out that Pope would not come to Kamloops she made plans to travel to Lac Ste. Anne. (Photo by Miles Morrisseau/ICT)

“I am very honored to be here, to be supporting all our brothers and sisters right on Turtle Island here to visit with the Pope and to witness him here at Ste. Anne’s,” she told ICT as she stood among hundreds pressed against the waist-high, steel fence awaiting the Pope.

“Coming to Lake Ste. Anne is very meaningful,” she said. “And this is something that’s very historical, you know, looking around here, all the thousands of First Nations Indigenous and Métis people that have come together as a family, to come and witness the Holy See come and bless these waters and to also acknowledge who we are.”

Kamloops brought the attention of the world to Canada’s residential school history when the tribe announced in May 2021 the discovery of unmarked graves of 215 children at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia.

The chief also went to the Vatican in April with a delegation of leaders, survivors, knowledge keepers and youths to meet with the Pope. He apologized privately to them and set in motion the current trip to Canada, which he has called a “penitential pilgrimage.”

She said the public apology he delivered Monday at Maskwacis is more important than the first.

“Thinking about the trip that I had to visit with the Holy See was actually historical in Italy,” she said. “But coming back here, and having a more lengthy, meaningful apology, was definitely something that really resonated, because he elaborated on colonialism. He talked about absolute regret and remorse and some meaningful steps moving forward.”

July 26, 2022

Catholic Church

Métis National Council president on split reaction to papal apology

Cassidy Caron, president of the Métis National Council, speaks to media in Edmonton on July 25, 2022, just hours after the head of the Catholic church, Pope Francis, apologized to Indigenous people for the church’s role in Canada’s residential school system.

CTV News Edmonton: Métis reaction to Pope Francis’ apology to Indigenous People in Canada on Monday was mixed, with some accepting the pontiff’s words as genuine, others wanting more, and many demanding their trauma be recognized more fully.

“Reconciliation – it didn’t begin and it didn’t happen today. Though we did, I feel, make another step forward along this journey for reconciliation with the Pope’s apology here on our territories, on our homelands,” Cassidy Caron, president of the Métis National Council told reporters Monday evening, speaking at the Edmonton Convention Centre.

She and representatives from provincial Métis councils gathered in Alberta’s capital city just hours after the head of the Catholic church said he was sorry for the organization’s role in Canada’s residential school system, which he called “projects of cultural destruction and forced assimilation.”

Francis spoke the words in Spanish at the site of the former Ermineskin Residential School in Maskwacis Monday morning before meeting parishioners at an Indigenous church in downtown Edmonton. Room was made for as many as 6,000 residential school survivors, elders and Indigneous People to attend the apology.

Commentary from the Métis representatives later in the day mirrored the wide-ranging reaction seen that morning in Maskwacis, from grateful to critical. “Today, I felt it was a genuine sincere apology. I felt it,” Hank Rowlinson, chair of the Métis Nation of Ontario, told media. “It was an honour, a real honour, to be there.”

However, he described the atmosphere at the former residential school site as cautious, which Caron and others echoed.

During his apology, Pope Francis said a subsequent step of reconciliation would be conducting “a serious investigation into the facts of what took place in the past.”

“We hope to hear more about what that actually means,” Caron said, referencing the work done by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC). “We know what happened. We know some of those truths. And so I’m hoping that that investigation piece means there will be investigations into the harms and the abuses that were actually done and we can start moving toward that justice piece.”

Several in the group travelled to the Vatican in April and heard Francis apologize to Indigenous People the first time. As part of the process, the Métis delegates left with the pontiff a book of stories from survivors. “For me, it’s clear that Pope Francis listened,” Caron said.

“Today, and after I met him, I felt so free. And I feel, like, I’m just – I’m safe,” added survivor and elder Angie Crerar.

From left to right, Angie Crerar, a residential school survivor and elder from Grande Prairie, Mitch Case, Métis Nation of Ontario councillor, and Hank Rowlinson, chair of the Métis Nation of Ontario, speak to media in Edmonton on July 25, 2022, just hours after the head of the Catholic church, Pope Francis, apologized to Indigenous people for the church’s role in Canada’s residential school system.

But as the president of Métis Nation British Columbia, Lissa Smith, said, “Begging for forgiveness is not enough. It’s only the first step.”

In addition to an investigation, the representatives on Monday called on the Catholic church, Canadian government and provinces to officially acknowledge how the Métis nation was affected by the residential school system, which the TRC found had been “overlooked.” The commission reported that even during times when federal policy banned Métis children – sometimes called “halfbreeds” – from residential schools, church leaders still recruited them or families were left with no other choice if they wanted their children to receive an education.

For the Pope’s visit, Métis Nation Saskatchewan brought 180 survivors from the Île-à-la-Crosse Boarding School, a sometimes-federally funded institution that was run by the Catholic church. Because it was not always funded by the Canadian government, the school is not officially recognized as part of the residential school system.

“The Metis story, not just in Île-à-la-Crosse but in Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba and parts of B.C. and Ontario, that Metis story has not been heard. And as a result, it’s difficult, I think, for some of our survivors to really dig deep into the apology by the Pope,” Michelle LeClair, vice president of Métis Nation Saskatchewan, said.

Robert Merasty remembers being dropped off at the building when he was five years old.

“We were met by a black robe. And I will never forget that. When he took my hand, I lost everything,” the man said, fighting to keep his composure.

Robert Merasty, Île-à-la-Crosse Boarding School, speaks to media in Edmonton on July 25, 2022, just hours after the head of the Catholic church, Pope Francis, apologized to Indigenous people for the church’s role in Canada’s residential school system.

Francis’ words on Monday invoked mixed emotions and memories, Merasty said, but definitely failed to do one thing: “We’re not recognized.”

In recognition that opinions will vary amongst Indigenous People, the Métis Nation of Ontario agreed unanimously before travelling to Alberta to take no position as an entity.

“It is not our place as a government what this means to our people. It’s up to every individual citizen, every individual survivor, every individual son, daughter, grandchild of a survivor to decide what today means for them,” councillor Mitch Case said.

“Everyone has the right to determine their pathway forward for healing,” Caron echoed.

“Everybody has different experiences. Everybody has different ways of wanting to move forward and heal in their own way, and I think that’s absolutely beautiful.”

July 26, 2022

Catholic Church

Pope’s apology doesn’t acknowledge church’s role as ‘co-author’ of dark chapter: Murray Sinclair

Former senator Murray Sinclair was the chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission from 2009 to 2015. He says the apology the Pope delivered Monday for the role Catholics played in Canada’s residential school system was lacking. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

CBC: The former Manitoba senator who chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada says there’s a “deep hole” in the apology issued by Pope Francis Monday for the role Catholics played in Canada’s residential school system.

Murray Sinclair says the historic apology, although meaningful to many residential school survivors and their families, fell short of Call to Action 58 in the final report. 

It specifically called on the Pope to issue an apology “for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children in Catholic-run residential schools.”

In a written statement Tuesday, Sinclair said the intent was that survivors would not only hear remorse, “but an acceptance of responsibility for what they were put through at the hands of the church and other institutions.”

While he called it a “historic apology,” he said the Pope’s statement “has left a deep hole in the acknowledgement of the full role of the church in the residential school system, by placing blame on individual members of the church.”

Pope Francis delivered the apology Monday in Alberta at the site of the former Ermineskin residential school, one of the largest in Canada, as he started what he called his “penitential pilgrimage.”

Pope Francis bows his head during a service at the Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples in Edmonton on Monday as part of his papal visit across Canada. He apologized for the role of many Christians in residential schools, which doesn’t go far enough, says Sinclair. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

“I ask forgiveness, in particular, for the ways in which many members of the church and of religious communities co-operated, not least through their indifference, in projects of cultural destruction and forced assimilation promoted by the governments of that time, which culminated in the system of residential schools,” he said.

Sinclair said it’s important to highlight that the Catholic Church was not just an agent of the state, but “a lead co-author of the darkest chapters in the history of the land.”

Sinclair says Catholic leaders who were driven by the Doctrine of Discovery — a 15th-century papal edict that justified colonial expansion by allowing Europeans to claim Indigenous lands as their own — as well as other church beliefs and policies enabled the government of Canada, and pushed it further in its work to commit what the TRC called the cultural genocide carried out on Indigenous people in Canada.

That was often “not just a collaboration, but an instigation,” he said.

“There are clear examples in our history where the church called for the government of Canada to be more aggressive and bold in its work to destroy Indigenous culture, traditional practices and beliefs,” Sinclair’s statement said.

“It was more than the work of a few bad actors — this was a concerted institutional effort to remove children from their families and cultures, all in the name of Christian supremacy.”

Time for action

Sinclair says reconciliation requires action, and the Catholic Church must work to assist in restoring culture, beliefs and traditions destroyed through assimilation.

“For the children and descendants of survivors, it is not enough that you have stopped abusing them,” he said. Rather, the church must help them recover, and “as well as commit to never doing this again.”

Students and staff at the Fort Alexander residential school are shown in an archival photo. Sinclair says there are clear examples in Canadian history where the Church called for the government of Canada to be more aggressive in its work to destroy Indigenous culture, traditional practices and beliefs. (National Commission for Truth and Reconciliation archives)

The Pope will continue his pilgrimage throughout the week to meet with First Nations, Métis and Inuit survivors in Quebec and Nunavut. Sinclair hopes the pontiff will take his words to heart.

“There is a better path that the church — and all Canadians — can indeed follow: taking responsibility for past actions and resolving to do better on this journey of reconciliation.”

Support is available for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools or by the latest reports.

A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.

Mental health counselling and crisis support is also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week through the Hope for Wellness hotline at 1-855-242-3310 or by online chat at

July 27, 2022

Reflecting on the Pope’s visit, Pauktuutit is centered on supporting former students, day students, and families

NationTalk: IQALUIT, July 27, 2022 – Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada’s President Sharpe and board members understand that the intergenerational trauma caused by the Roman Catholic church has impacted Inuit women, families, and communities.  To support former students and address Intergenerational impacts on families, aftercare is critical. Providing mental health support is essential, and our organization wants to focus on it in these difficult times.

In the path towards reconciliation on the healing journey impacted by the residential schools’ experiences, along with Pauktuutit’s mandate and mission to foster a greater awareness of the needs of Inuit women and gender-diverse people, Pauktuutit has partnered with Qaggiavuut to support local healing camp workshops in Iqaluit, Nunavut.  Counselling and support services will be offered alongside cultural activities.

“Having the Pope come to Canada to take part in this penitential pilgrimage, to see us on our homelands, is part of our walk towards reconciliation. I look forward to the Pope’s commitment to the investigation of the past and assisting survivors.

This visit is the start, for the residential school survivors, day school students, our children, and our grandchildren. For this to be real, the leader needs to take responsibility, in this case, the Pope,” stated Gerri Sharpe, President of Pauktuutit.

Where and when: President Sharpe and staff will be in Iqaluit to support Inuit women, gender-diverse people, and their families before, during, and after the Pope’s visit. In partnership with Qaggiavuut, Pauktuutit wants to focus on survivors, and surviving families, by offering cultural workshops and counselling from Thursday, July 28 until Saturday, July 30, from 1 to 5 pm.

A camp outside the Qaggiavuut office will share drumming, throat singing, sealskin cleaning, qulliq making, storytelling, country food, and more. Find our tent at House 411 (Qaggiavuut) in Iqaluit.

Support is available:

  • National Residential School Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419
  • Indian Residential School Resolution Health Support Program, Northern Region — 1-800-464-8106
  • Hope for Wellness Helpline (English, French, Cree, Ojibway and Inuktitut): 1-855-242-3310
  • Kamatsiaqut helpline / Embrace Life Council hotline: 1-800-265-3333
  • Trans Lifeline: 1-877-330-6366
  • Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868


Media contact: Josée Levesque, 613-238-3977, Ext 271, or email

July 28, 2022

Special Statement by President Chartrand following Pope Francis’ historic visit to Canada

NationTalk: Winnipeg, MB –  in the National Homeland of the Red River Métis - Today, the Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF), the National Government of the Red River Métis, also known as the Manitoba Métis, reflects on the encounters with His Holiness, Pope Francis, after his historic visit and apology in Canada.

While there are many who will need more time and healing before they accept this apology, it is clear that many of our Red River Métis Citizens have embraced his sincere words and heartfelt messages.

When we met with His Holiness in Rome in April, we knew that it might be difficult for the Holy Father to make a trip to Winnipeg to visit Louis Riel’s gravesite and pay tribute to the deep faith that had our great leader carry a cross into battle, instead of a gun. We told Pope Francis that if he could not come to us, we would come to him. That’s why we brought more than 100 Elders and Knowledge Keepers from across our regions to Maskwacis, the site of Ermineskin Indian Residential School. I personally carried a statue of Louis Riel so that it might be blessed by the Holy Father. I know many of our Citizens were touched when Pope Francis acknowledged Winnipeg in his remarks, which told us that he still kept us in his heart, in spite of his health challenges. I was so proud of the significant presence of our delegation at the event, and deeply appreciative of the opportunity to gather with so many other members of the Indigenous community during this historic event.

Many members of our delegation to Maskwacis also attended mass at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Red Deer prior to the event, where we were warmly greeted by the parishioners. I know our Citizens were grateful to attend the service and draw comfort from it in advance of our time with many Nations from across Canada as we heard the Holy Father’s apology.

I was also honoured to be able to attend an event with His Holiness in Quebec City, at the Governor General’s residence at the Citadelle of Quebec on Wednesday, July 27, accompanied by Andrew Carrier, a day school survivor and the MMF’s Minister for Residential and Day School survivors. We were able to hear the words of His Holiness and participate in this part of his journey to our country, which will be followed by his last event in Canada, in Iqaluit.

The power of his apology, delivered in our Homeland, was not lost on our delegation. Many were moved to tears, including survivors and family members of survivors, hearing his acknowledgement of the harms done by residential and day schools, and the people who ran them. We know that our Citizens are now in a better place to move forward on their healing journeys, their faith in God strong and growing stronger.

I, like our Cabinet, have long heard the words of our Elders, Knowledge Keepers and survivors, and their concerns about the shrinking presence of the Catholic church in our communities, and we remain committed to supporting their wish to strengthen this relationship. The National Government of the Red River Métis remains committed to ongoing healing with the Catholic church, walking side-by-side as we always have in our Nation’s past.

I look forward to continuing dialogue with the Canadian Council of Catholic Bishops as we move forward on our journey of hope from reconciliation to renewal.


Believe in Yourself; Believe in Métis.

The Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF) is the democratically elected National Government of the Red River Métis, also known as the Manitoba Métis, the origin and core of the Métis Nation. The Manitoba Métis are Canada’s Negotiating Partners in Confederation and the Founders of the Province of Manitoba.

For more information, media may contact:
Kat Patenaude
Media Relations Advisor
Manitoba Métis Federation