If Pope Francis plans to apologize for the Catholic Church’s role in Canada’s residential school system, the gesture should happen on Saskatchewan soil, according to a First Nations leader.
On Monday, Justin Trudeau met with the Pope in Vatican City and expressed that an apology from the pontiff would aid in the process of reconciliation with Canada’s indigenous peoples.
Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) Chief Bobby Cameron thanked the prime minister for raising the issue Monday and said in an interview that Saskatchewan would be a “meaningful and symbolic” place for the apology to take place.
“We have the highest number of residential school survivors, we have the highest number of cases of abuse here in our region,” Cameron said.
“If he does it in the Vatican it won’t be as heartfelt and genuine.”
Residential schools operated in Canada for more than a century, during which roughly 150,000 indigenous children were taken from their homes. Many were abused and thousands died.
In a statement to reporters after his meeting, Trudeau said the Pope “looked forward to working with me and with the Canadian bishops to figure out a path forward together.” The prime minister also indicated that he invited the pontiff to visit Canada.
“For him to come and say ‘yes we apologize and we are so sorry to the survivors, we are with you, we stand beside you, behind you and we pray for you,’ that would be so powerful,” Cameron, who is the son of residential school survivors, said.
If a papal visit to Canada occurs, Harry Lafond also hopes a visit to Saskatchewan will be on the itinerary. He said he’s been working for years to bring the Pope to the province.
“He needs to come to Saskatchewan and have an opportunity to say what he needs to say in terms of the historical wrongs that have been done where the church has had some involvement,” Lafond, executive director of the Office of the Treaty Commissioner, said Monday.