Original Published on Jul 29, 2022 at 17:01

By Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Pope Francis’s six-day ‘pilgrimage of penance’ in Canada came to an end on Friday, and while some have criticized the pontiff for not taking his apology to residential schools survivors far enough, the President of the Manitoba Métis Federation says he thinks the apology will go a long way towards helping Red River Métis citizens who were harmed by that system to begin healing and embracing the Catholic Church.

“The power of his apology, delivered in our homeland, was not lost on our delegation,” MMF President David Chartrand said. “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.”

Chartrand’s comments come after a MMF delegation that included more than 100 Elders and Knowledge Keepers recently travelled to Alberta and were at the site of the former Ermineskin Indian Residential School on Monday, where Pope Francis publicly apologized to residential school survivors for the harms and abuse that many faced in those schools, often at the hand of members of the Catholic Church.

“I humbly beg forgiveness for the evil committed by so many Christians against the Indigenous peoples,” the Pope said in his Monday apology. “It is necessary to remember how the policies of assimilation and enfranchisement, which also included the residential school system, were devastating for the people of these lands.

“The overall effects of the policies linked to the residential schools were catastrophic.”

There has been some criticism of Monday’s apology, including from some prominent Indigenous leaders who say they don’t believe it fully acknowledged the scope of the Catholic Church’s role in the residential school system.

Chartrand, however, said that although everyone will take something different away from the apology, he believes many Red River Métis citizens have already “embraced” it.

“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,” Chartrand said.

Chatrand has said previously that he has hoped for some time to see the relationship between the Red River Métis people and the Catholic Church in Canada strengthened, and he now says he believes the Pope’s apology could be a step towards further strengthening that relationship.

“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,” Chartrand said. “We remain committed to supporting their wish to strengthen this relationship.

“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.”

The Pope’s visit to Canada wrapped up on Friday, as the pontiff began the day with private meetings at the Archbishop of Quebec’s residence, and later travelled to Iqaluit to take part in private meetings with residential school survivors, before heading back to the Vatican in Rome.

This item reprinted with permission from The Sun, Winnipeg, Manitoba