CMEDIA: A total of 32 delegates representing the First Nations, Inuit, and Metis communities alongside family members and other Indigenous leaders and residential school survivors have traveled to Rome for meetings with Pope Francis this week, hoping to secure a papal apology for the Catholic Church’s role in Canada’s residential school system.
Originally scheduled to take place in December, these meetings had been pushed back to three months due to the spike in COVID-19 cases caused by the Omicron variant.
Besides getting a public apology from the Pope on Canadian soil, the Church is also being called by the delegates to return Indigenous artifacts and land and provide funding to help survivors and their families heal.
This visit to the Vatican follows the discovery of nearly 2,000 confirmed or suspected unmarked graves across several former residential school sites since last May when 200 unmarked graves were found at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.
From the late 1800s to 1996, more than 150,000 Indigenous children were taken from their families to attend residential schools, over half of which were operated by the Catholic Church with the goal of forcibly assimilating them into Canadian culture.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission said in 2015 that at least one in every 50 students had died, amid widespread reports of physical, mental, and sexual abuse at these schools.
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