While thousands will be flocking to Québec City to participate in the upcoming Papal visit – the Cree Nation at Chisasibi is opting not to send an official delegation to partake in proceedings.
“Our community will focus on healing and traditional activities locally, a decision rooted in compassion, respect, and love for survivors,” Chief Daisy House of Chisasibi said via press statement on July 24.
“Chisasibi Eeyouch are feeling raw, challenging emotions already, and this week will trigger more pain in the coming days.”
Anglican and Catholic residential schools opened on Fort George Island back in the early 1930s and were attended by children from Cree, Aninishinaabe, and Innu communities in both Quebec and Ontario.
Back in June, on Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Chisasibi announced it would be initiating the first steps of ground searches in at least five sites on Fort George Island – becoming the first community in Quebec to do so.
House, at the time, told APTN News the search process could take two to three years, complicated by the island’s rough, overgrown terrain.
However, Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC) announced they will be kicking in $225,000 to assist with the ground-search process.
“We are doing our part to move forward. Reconciliation is a two-way street that does not simply end after an apology,” said Mandy Gull, Masty, grand chief of the Cree Nation of Eeyou Istchee.
“Meaningful actions to facilitate our healing journeys must come from all sides.”
For their part, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) announced it’s collected $4.6 million of a promised $30 million from Catholic dioceses across the country for their “Indigenous Reconciliation Fund,” which will support healing and reconciliation initiatives.
“None of these funds will be allocated to cover the expenses of the Papal Visit to Canada,” a CCCB media spokesperson told APTN in an email.
Papal visit will be ‘a failure’ without apology: AFNQL
Just hours before Pope Francis issued an apology to residential school survivors gathered in Maskwacis, Alberta for the “deplorable evil” they experienced, the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador went on record to say they expect the message to be repeated during Thursday’s Papal address in Quebec City.
The AFNQL’s remarks come in response to a recently-published French-language interview with Raymond Poisson, president of the CCCB in which he said “the apology has already been made at the Vatican,” while qualifying Pope’s trip to Canada as “another step.”
“Indigenous communities are not travelling hundreds or even thousands of kilometres to attend a celebration,” said AFNQL Regional Chief Ghislain Picard. “They will do so to receive an apology for the physical, psychological and spiritual abuse they have suffered over generations.
“The visit will be a failure if the survivors, who have had only a few weeks to organize their journey to Quebec City, so no hear the apology from Pope Francis himself.”
The Pope will be touching down in Québec City on Wednesday, where he will meet with state officials and deliver a public address at the Plains of Abraham, followed the next day by a Holy Mass delivered at the National Shrine of Ste. Anne de Beaupré.
For more on the apology, click here: Road to Truth: The Pope’s Visit