In the News April 1
Residential School Survivors Pursue Cause of Justice
Métis Make Specific Demands of the Catholic Church
Following their meeting with Pope Francis, the Métis delegation participated in a news conference where they shared their thoughts. Besides reporting that the hour-long meeting was a chance for three Métis elders to inform the Pope directly of their experience of residential school. Cassidy Caron, the President of the Métis National Council, noted that what Indigenous people want is for Pope Francis to come to Canada and make a heartfelt apology for the crimes the Catholic Church committed against their children in residential schools. But that is only the beginning, she emphasized.
The dictionary definition of the word “apology,” she noted, was “acknowledgement of wrongdoing” and the Métis elders who are the survivors of the residential schools are expecting and looking for the Pope to acknowledge this “wrongdoing that was done by the Catholic Church to these children and to our communities.” She pointed out that the Church must take responsibility for the inter-generational trauma, poverty and other hardships that Métis still face today. She pointed out that the apology will help with the process of healing but that an apology alone will not bring closure.
“An apology is just words and we need to follow that with action. We need action for truth, justice, reconciliation, and healing.” “For truth, we need unfettered access to church and residential school records, so that we can piece together in a better way where our families were when their children were taken from them and where they went to, and which children didn’t return home,” she said.
Ms. Caron also demanded access to the cultural artifacts of the Métis that were taken from their communities to be part of the Vatican collection. This would be necessary “to tell the story of our communities,” she said. For justice to be done, Ms. Caron emphasized that the Métis are looking for a commitment from the Catholic Church to not continue to shield the perpetrators of crimes committed “against our children.” These perpetrators are out there, she noted, and must be brought to justice. She also pointed out that for healing to take place there must be “substantive and direct compensation for our survivors, many of whom live in poverty. This has resulted in the systemic inequities that our people face today.” She also said there must be funding for healing initiatives as directed by the Métis themselves. She said that the Métis children who returned home from residential schools hated themselves. “But we are still here, we love our culture, we love our language,” she said.
Mitch Case, a member of the Métis community of Sault Ste. Marie and also a member of the Métis delegation to the Vatican, took the occasion to point out that the Métis were excluded from the 2006 Indian Residential School Settlement and the subsequent Truth and Reconciliation Commission proceedings and that the meeting with the Pope is the “first time any Métis survivors have been invited to say anything.”
He pointed out that even if the horrific crimes of the Catholic Church committed against Métis and other Indigenous children had not occurred, the whole Residential School enterprise would still be wrong. “The whole attempt to erase us from this earth is wrong,” he added. He pointed out that it is unacceptable to justify these crimes as something that took place in the past. “There were people at that time who spoke out against these wrongs, and they got fired,” he said. Mr. Case also denounced the role that the Catholic Church played in facilitating the theft of Métis lands by land speculators. “This was done to remove us from our lands so that Canada could claim everything. So here we are a century and a half later with no process […] there is not even a process for us to talk to them [the government] about it. That is quite frankly, unacceptable.”
The Métis delegation called on the Canadian people to continue to walk with them on the path of justice, truth and reconciliation. Pixie Wells, interim president of the Fraser Valley Métis Association, called on Canadians to grow Forget-me-nots, also called the Métis rose, this spring, so “you don’t forget us.” She pointed out that the meeting with the Pope was cordial, but what is needed is concrete action.
(With files from CTV, CBC. Photo: C. Caron)
Renewal Update, posted April 1, 2022.