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Sask. Residential school survivors disappoint Pope Francis by not stopping at the province

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Saskatchewan residential school survivors and indigenous leaders say they are disappointed Pope Francis will not stop in their province this summer.

They are also unhappy that the Vatican, not the survivors, decided the Pope would only touch on Edmonton, Quebec City and Iqalu.

“It’s very disappointing,” said Saulteaux Chief of Nation Felix Thomas. “The problem from the beginning [of the residential school system]was that we had no words for things. “And we saw how well it worked.”

In 2017, Thomas and others worked for months trying to bring Francis to Wanuskewin Heritage Park, a gathering place for indigenous people for more than 5,000 years close to what Saskatoon is today. They followed the advice and protocols of local communities, the Federation of Indigenous Sovereign Nations (FSIN), and the Assembly of First Nations.

The attempt failed, but Thomas hoped the work would result in a Wanuskewin stop on this trip.

Residential school survivor Rick Daniels and his granddaughter, Lori-Ann Daniels, say the Vatican and the Catholic Church must take action on broken promises before an apology can be sought in July. (supplied by Rick Daniels)

FSIN lobbied last week for a visit to Muskowekwan First Nation, the site of the last residential school in Saskatchewan. He also said the survivors should have dictated where the Pope would visit, not the church.

FSIN chief Bobby Cameron said that even after delegations traveled to Rome earlier this year to apologize to the Pope for the first time, many chiefs in Canada had no idea what would happen around the visit.

“What is the term compliance when there is no involvement?” Asked Cameron. “What is reconciliation when they continue to dictate what they will do, when they will do it, how they will do it?”

Survivor Rick Daniel agreed. Daniels was in Wanuskewin on Friday mentoring a group of university students.

“It should have been in our hands, not from the Vatican,” he said.

Daniels and his intergenerational survivor, Lori-Ann Daniels, say it’s not just about asking for forgiveness.

A pardon would be meaningless if the Catholic Church and the Vatican do not initially take action on a series of injustices and broken promises, they say.

This includes disclosing documents for schools and unmarked waste being discovered across the country. It includes the use of tens of billions of dollars of Vatican assets to honor the financial commitments made in a settlement agreement more than a decade ago. It also includes a denial of the Doctrine of Discovery, which was used to justify colonialism. and centuries-old oppression against the Indigenous People.

“For myself, as an intergenerational survivor, an apology is not what I need. It has to do with action,” said Lori-Ann Daniels. “The church keeps saying, ‘We will come back to you’ or ‘We are working for it.’ Meanwhile, hundreds of survivors are still dying. When will they take this seriously?

Mtis survivor Antoinette LaFleur, who is from Beauval and attended the le-la-Crosse boarding school, said they could not rely on church or government promises and communities should find ways to help each other. recover.

“The past has hurt us a lot, but now is the time to grasp our issues and move on with our lives,” she said.

LaFleur said he will try to go to Edmonton when Francis visits, but Rick and Lori-Ann Danielssay probably won’t.

The Bishops of Canada issued their first national pardon for survivors last fall and announced a renewed fundraising effort. The promise was to raise $ 30 million over five years.

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