Efforts by Canada to help school survivors attend Pope’s visit falling well short

While the official name of the Papal visit is Walking Together, residential school survivor Geraldine Shingoose says she feels like she is walking alone.

“The survivors have to search on their own,” she said, “they have to make the phone calls on their own,” she told APTN News.

Shingoose attended Muskowekwan Indian Residential School for nine years. She has spent the last few weeks searching for resources on how to attend the Pope’s upcoming events – but answers are not easy to find.

“I phoned my band four times […] and they haven’t responded back,” she said.

The federal government announced $30 million for survivors during Pope Francis’ tour, but a search for resources turned up few results. Specific information on who to contact for money and support is missing from the government’s website.

APTN News contacted Crown-Indigenous Relations (CIRNAC) and was directed multiple times to a government webpage with flowery language but almost no answers on where to access money for programs or travel.

CIRNAC responded to additional requests for information just before this article was published, saying “[Indigenous communities and organizations] are receiving funding via Indigenous Services Canada’s Urban Programming for Indigenous Peoples (UPIP).”

Shingoose said the process put in place for seeing the Pope is difficult for elderly survivors and those without access to internet and credit cards.

She said the visit is not centering on the needs of the survivors, contrary to the Pope’s claims.

“We’re placed in a degrading situation,” Shingoose said, “It’s very oppressive. It’s very challenging.”

She would have made a few important changes to the way the processes rolled out.

“They should have put that invitation out for us when they knew he was coming to Canada,” she said. “They should have made a link available where survivors could register and have accommodations made for them. You know, make it easy for us.”

Though Shingoose said organizers have fallen short on their duties, survivors and their community are helping one another out.

“I’m doing this so I can inform the rest of the survivors,” Shingoose said, letting others know what to do next as soon as she finds out.

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Road to Truth: The Pope’s Visit

Many may wonder why someone would go to such great lengths to see the Pope – but Shingoose said she isn’t just going for herself.

“I’m going to stand there for my brother George who never got to tell his story, and I’m going to stand there for my parents, because my parents… their children were taken,” she said. “I’m going to stand there for the survivors who can’t make it. I’m going to stand there strong and proud.”

Everyone is waiting with anticipation to see if the Pope will formally apologize for the Church’s role in the atrocities that took place in the residential schools.

However, an apology can only go so far without acknowledging exactly the harms that were done.

“We can’t move forward with healing or reconciliation until they acknowledge that truth, and what happened to those little children,” she said.

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