Church Apologies and Reconciliation (58-61): Current Problems

Indigenous Leader Responses to Pope's Apology

July 25, 2022

Catholic Church

AMC and AFN Manitoba Respond to the Pope Francis’ Apology

NationTalk: TREATY SIX TERRITORY, ALBERTA – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Regional Chief Cindy Woodhouse, Indian day School Survivor, Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) Acting Grand Chief Cornell McLean, and Residential School Survivors, including former AFN National Chief Phil Fontaine, today reflected on Pope Francis’ historic apology on Treaty Six Territory.

The Pope’s six-day visit to Canada began with a visit to Maskwacis, Alberta, the location of the former Ermineskin Indian Residential School from 1894-1976. The Pope will meet with Residential School Survivors across Canada at events in Edmonton, AB, Lac Ste. Anne, AB, Quebec City, QC, and Iqaluit, NU.

“Today’s apology from the Pope is a historical moment that recognizes the generations of harms caused by residential schools and the Catholic Church to Canada’s First Nations children and families,” said AFN Regional Chief Cindy Woodhouse. “Every Survivor will choose how they feel about the apology. We have witnessed the Pope’s response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action #58 – and heard a message of hope to our people, Canadians, and Catholics worldwide: First Nations cultures, languages, and traditions matter. This message will help to guide us all on the path to Reconciliation.”

“The apology issued by Pope Francis on our Nations’ ancestral lands is a step for many towards healing. It has been over a year since discovering over a thousand unmarked graves of children on Indian Residential School grounds, and we are still mourning them. An apology does not ease the pain of lost children who never returned home, or the legacy First Nations carry as the Survivors, their children, and their grandchildren. However, we encourage the Church to move forward in the spirit of reconciliation by making concrete commitments and true reparations going forward,” said Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Acting Grand Chief Cornell McLean.

Former AFN National Chief Phil Fontaine, a Survivor of two Manitoba residential schools and the first First Nations leader to speak publicly about residential school abuse more than 30 years ago, heard the apology offered by Pope Francis. Pope Francis’s words today and in Rome this spring represent a journey that has taken more than 180 years – from the time the doors of these so-called schools opened to the challenges First Nations people live today. By apologizing for the abuses of the past, Pope Francis has helped to open the door for survivors and their families to walk together with the Church for a present and future of forgiveness and healing. I accept and choose this path.

Elder Harvey Nepinak, a residential school Survivor who watched the apology from Dauphin, Manitoba, said, “The Holy Father’s apology will lift some of the darkness which the Indian residential school experience represents. The missing children will be acknowledged with utmost respect and care following their families’ wishes, as each circumstance requires.”

If you are a former residential school survivor in distress, or have been affected by the residential school system and need help, you can contact the 24-hour Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419

For more information, please contact:

Communications Team
Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs

About the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs

The AMC was formed in 1988 by the Chiefs in Manitoba to advocate on issues that commonly affect First Nations in Manitoba. AMC is an authorized representative of 62 of the 63 First Nations in Manitoba with a total of more than 151,000 First Nation citizens in the province, accounting for approximately 12 percent of the provincial population. AMC represents a diversity of Anishinaabe (Ojibway), Nehetho / Ininew (Cree), Anishininew (Ojibwe-Cree), Denesuline (Dene) and Dakota Oyate (Dakota) people.

July 26, 2022

Catholic Church

First Nations leaders call for Pope Francis to rescind Doctrine of Discovery

NationTalk: Xʷməθkʷəyə̓m (Musqueam), Sḵwxwú7mesẖ (Squamish) and səlilw̓ətaʔɬ/sel̓ílwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh)/Vancouver, BC) — The First Nations Summit (FNS) recognizes and appreciates yesterday’s historic apology from Pope Francis and calls on the Pope to put substance and positive action to his words and continue to address the wrongs of the Catholic Church by rescinding the Papal Bull on the Doctrine of Discovery and returning the many artifacts that remain in the Church’s possession.

In coming to Canada, Pope Francis has clearly heard Indigenous leaders and residential school survivors, and understands the suffering of those who attended residential school and First Nations people who continue to suffer today. The respect he has shown our Elders, survivors and those we remember in yesterday’s apology is an important and necessary step forward on the path towards reconciliation.

We are disappointed that the Pope’s visit to Canada has not also put words into action by rescinding the Doctrine of Discovery, which has been the basis for much of the justification for taking lands and resources from the First Nations of North America and beyond. This is a necessary step to achieve true reconciliation and fulfill recommendation 49 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Countless survivors, their families and the generations that have followed have demonstrated resilience and determination to preserve our identity, culture and traditions, despite the dark shadow of residential schools. We honour residential school survivors and the many lost children across Canada and remain committed to supporting efforts to right the wrongs of the past.

In turn, the Catholic Church must now rescind the Papal Bull on the Doctrine of Discovery, make reparations and return the First Nations artifacts, human remains and church records that hold important historical and cultural significance.


The First Nations Summit speaks on behalf of First Nations involved in treaty negotiations in British Columbia. The Summit is also an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. Further background information on the Summit may be found at

For further information:
Cheryl Casimer, FNS Political Executive 778-875-2157
Robert Phillips, FNS Political Executive 778-875-4463
Hugh Braker, FNS Political Executive 250-720-7998

July 22, 2022

Catholic Church

Invialuit Statement on Pope’s visit

Inuvialuit Regional Corporation (IRC) has respectfully declined an invitation to participate in the Papal visit to Iqaluit on July 29, 2022, as it remains unclear if a formal apology will be made or not.

The Roman Catholic Church operated three (3) residential schools in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region (ISR). Inuvialuit continue to bear the burden of intergenerational trauma stemming from residential schools and will never forget these atrocities.

The Inuvialuit Regional Corporation recognizes the Papal visit, but until there is a clear statement made by the Roman Catholic church committing to address past wrongs, IRC will withhold any involvement (while the church continues to withhold any settlement payments, despite promises made in the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement).

IRC would also expect a commitment from the church to work closely with Inuvialuit and IRC on a real approach to reconciliation.

We understand that some Inuvialuit will attend the events as part of the Papal visit. While not participating itself, IRC wishes Inuvialuit survivors and families healing as they continue their journey.

In our absence, IRC invites the Holy See and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) to reflect upon their role in the colonization of Inuvialuit Nunangat.

For further reading, please see ITK’s Inuit Calls for Justice, Action in Private Encounter with Pope Francis here, .

For media inquiries, please contact Communications, Alexandrea Gordon at 867-678-5490 or

About the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation

Established in 1984 to manage the settlement outlined in the Inuvialuit Final Agreement (IFA), Inuvialuit Regional Corporation (IRC) represents the collective interests of Inuvialuit in and beyond the Inuvialuit Settlement Region (ISR). The IRC works to continually improve the economic, social, and cultural well-being of the Inuvialuit through the implementation of the IFA and by all other available means.

July 22, 2022

Catholic Church, Fed. Govt.

Letter from National Chief and Regional Chief to Prime Minister and Governor General on Papal Visit

Governor General of Canada
Rideau Hall
1 Sussex Drive Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A1                                                       Sent via email

The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, P.C., M.P.
Prime Minister of Canada
Langevin Block
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A2                                                       Sent via email

Re: Apostolic Journey of His Holiness Pope Francis to Canada

Dear Excellency and Prime Minister,

I am grateful for my invitation to the Citadelle upon the Pope’s arrival in the city of Québec. I am writing today, with Regional Chief Gerald Antoine, IRS and Day School portfolio lead for the Assembly of First Nations, to support the participation of members of my national executive in the impending papal visit to Canada.

Our staff have reported to us a pattern of disregard by organizers of the papal visit when it comes to planning and key decision-making regarding the Pope’s itinerary. What has become apparent is that this visit and apology has evolved to be more for the benefit of Canadian Catholic parishioners and the global Christian community and less about actual moves for reparations and reconciliation with the First Nation community that was harmed by institutions of assimilation and genocide.

We are concerned that our community members, particularly survivors, are being re-victimized in this unilateral process. It is unfortunate that we as First Nations have not been the driving force in the planning of this state visit despite that this visit was really meant for us as the original inhabitants of Turtle Island. The reality is the CCCB and church community planned the event while First Nations were kept on the periphery of the planning process. Our staff have gleaned from information released through the papal visit website and press clippings what we understand to be the Pope’s itinerary.

The anticipated apology potentially represents a monumental moment for us and may serve to help put our shared collective pain behind us. What we need to do, then, is to acknowledge it together and work together in a spirit of true collaboration on the healing path forward.

In writing to express our concern, we are actually reaching out for your allyship with the church community to ensure that our future relationship is based in mutual respect, trust, and cooperation.

We wish to express our best wishes for a successful event at the Citadelle and look forward to your reply.


National Chief RoseAnne Archibald


Regional Chief Gerald Antoine

July 26, 2022

Catholic Church

MKO Response to Papal Apology

Treaty Six Territory, Edmonton, AB – Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc. (MKO) is issuing the following statement in response to the Papal apology delivered by the Pope on July 25, 2022.

Grand Chief Garrison Settee states:

“Taking the time to accompany MKO Survivors to attend a historic meeting with the Pope in Treaty Six territory was my great honour. I’m really happy for the Survivors first and foremost. A lot of them waited so long to get an apology, to hear the Pope say he’s sorry for what happened to us at residential schools.

It was awesome to hear those words for all the people who needed to hear it. I’m happy to see the Survivors receive this apology. I believe it was a sincere apology.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission had called upon the Pope to issue an apology to Survivors, their families, and communities for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of First Nations children in Catholic-run residential schools.

We didn’t hear sexual abuse mentioned in the apology. It was a bit surprising the Doctrine of Discovery was also not mentioned, but maybe it will be down the road.

Some people have expressed their disappointment that they did not hear an acknowledgement of the genocide of Indigenous peoples in relation to the role of the Catholic Church in running residential schools.

Saying sorry and acknowledging the harms that have been caused is just one step of many that need to happen. There is so much more work to be done. I am grateful to experience this historic moment with MKO Survivors who made the journey from Northern Manitoba to be here in Alberta.

The smiles and laughter that were shared helped to lift the burdens our Survivors carry with them. I am thankful for all the connections that have been made. I thank the MKO staff members who have worked tirelessly to provide a supportive travel opportunity for our Survivors.

I am now looking to the Catholic Church to move forward with Indigenous peoples in Canada as better partners. I look forward to seeing the return of all artifacts and documents to the first peoples. We need any records stored in the Vatican as these contain answers that will reveal further truths. Acknowledging the truth and saying sorry is one of the first steps to assist us in collectively moving forward on the path to reconciliation.”


For more information, contact:
Melanie Ferris, MKO Communications
Cell: 204-612-1284

July 25, 2022

Catholic Church

National Chief RoseAnne Archibald finds Pope Francis’ apology falls short

CBC: Although AFN National Chief RoseAnne Archibald appreciated the personal nature of Pope Francis’ apology she also felt that the apology fell short on a number of fronts:

  • Failure to rescind the Doctrine of Discovery that was the primary instrument of colonization for the stealing of Indigenous land and genocide of Indigenous people. This doctrine in combination with the doctrine of terra nullius still underpins the current legal frameworks that justifies colonialism
  • Did not address the facts of genocide responsible for the deaths of thousands of Indigenous children in schools operated by the Catholic Church
  • Didn’t address the direct accountability of the Catholic Church as an institution for the destructive actions it initiated to destroy Indigenous culture, languages, spirituality and legal traditions

She felt that the apology raised a number of questions including about who would lead the investigation Pope Francis referred to: the Church or the independent International investigation that the AFN and others have called for.

On July 22, 2022 in a letter sent to Archbishop Richard W. Smith acknowledging her attendance at events in Edmonton, sh also had this to say about the Catholic Church soliciting donations on the ticketmaster site:

I’ve also been notified that on the Papal Visit Ticketmaster page, ticket holders are solicited for donations to CONCACAN INC. who serve to promote and coordinate Catholic activity in Canada and ensure the advancement of the Roman Catholic church in Canada. Please see how inappropriate this is. We as First Nations people are all intergenerational trauma survivors, and we are collectively grieving the pain and suffering that Catholic-run institutions of assimilation and genocide perpetrated. It is ill-timed to advance church fundraising efforts on this reconciliatory visit in the first place but especially hurtful to ask First Nations survivors, to whom church reparations are already owed, to donate.

Lastly, I would like for you to send the complete set of agendas for all papal visit sites that we can share with our communities as our People need answers.

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

Catholic Church

Representative’s Statement on Pope Francis’s Visit to Canada

“The most important day of an apology is the day after, and the year after. We all need to be looking at what the Pope does then.”

Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director, First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada

NationTalk: With those wise words, Dr. Blackstock this week crystalized the essence of Pope Francis’s visit to Canada in terms of its relevance to First Nations, Métis and Inuit Peoples. It is an important and historic step toward reconciliation, but its true worth will only be reflected in the actions that follow.

The Pope’s formal apology for the “deplorable evil” committed by Christians against Indigenous children and families that culminated in residential schools, as well as for how the “many members of the church and of religious communities co-operated . . . in projects of cultural destruction and forced assimilation promoted by the governments of that time” is being met with mixed response.

Certainly, it is a welcome – and in some cases healing – action for many First Nations, Métis and Inuit people to hear the Pontiff “humbly beg forgiveness for the evil committed by so many Christians against the Indigenous peoples.” The Pope has described his visit as a “penitential pilgrimage” and has publicly acknowledged that forced assimilation eroded values, language and culture that comprised the authentic identity of Indigenous Peoples “and that you have continued to pay the price of this.”

For others, however, the Pope’s visit has resurfaced trauma caused by experiences at residential schools that has plagued them and their families for generations. Chief Cadmus Delorme of Cowessess First Nation acknowledged this, stating: “ In the coming days please understand the Pope’s visit will impact survivors and family of survivors differently. One day at a time we shall find means to get stronger.”

Notably, former national Truth and Reconciliation Commission Chair Murray Sinclair, in a written statement released Monday, said the Pope’s apology “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.”

After Pope Francis issued his apology, Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, Chief of Neskonlith Indian Band, Secretary-Treasurer of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs and First Nations Leadership Council member, led a call for the Pope to go further by repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery and renouncing the associated Papal bulls that combined to pave the way for colonization.

As B.C.’s Representative for Children and Youth, my Office stands in allyship with First Nations, Métis and Inuit people as they grapple with the complexities of the Pope’s visit and apology. And we echo their leaders’ common calls for concrete acts of reconciliation by the Catholic Church to follow up on those words including, but not limited, to:

  • ensuring that all church records be turned over to the communities and organizations seeking to identify and learn what happened to all the children who were forced to attend residential schools;
  • making a commitment to stop protecting and help bring to justice those perpetrators of abuse who are still alive;
  • addressing the ongoing abuse of children in the Catholic Church;
  • acknowledging and apologizing for the impact of the Doctrine of Discovery, as the Anglican and United Churches have already done.

We at RCY join in support of First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples calling for the Pope’s words to be just a beginning, rather than a conclusion. We align with those leaders in calling for tangible action by the Catholic Church towards repair and reconciliation that will support the well-being of Indigenous children and families now and in the future.

We also hope that subsequent action by the Catholic Church to follow its historic apology will also help to hasten repair and reconciliation work by other entities, including the Government of Canada and the RCMP, whose current and former policies have also resulted in harm to Indigenous children and families.

In an interview with CHNL Radio in Kamloops, Kúkpi7 Rosanne Casimir of Tk’emlúpsTeSecwépemc described the Pope’s apology as “meaningful” and a “first step.” But she acknowledged that there are “actionable next steps that still need to take place.”

As Norway House Cree Nation member and freelance journalist David A. Robertson summed it up in a CBC opinion piece this week: “Without action, sorry is a fleeting and, ultimately, meaningless word.”


Dr. Jennifer Charlesworth
Representative for Children and Youth