Métis Nation-Saskatchewan survivors set for meeting with Pope Francis

Survivors of residential schools in Northern Saskatchewan are on their way to Rome for a meeting with the Pope about the Catholic Church’s role in the Indian Residential School system.

Elder Antoinette LaFleur, a member of the Ile-á-la-Crosse Boarding School Steering Committee, is making the trip.

“It’s so hard for people to understand everything that happened at the Ile-a-la-Crosse school-not far from where so many of us live now, “ she said. “It’s important for our healing journey to make sure that the Church understands exactly what happened to us under it’s watch.”

Members that are going overseas are part of the Métis Nation-Saskatchewan (MN-S) as part of a larger Métis National Council delegation.

The MN-S says the Métis experience in residential schools has been largely forgotten and ignored, particularly by the federal government.

It says survivors and families from the Ile-a-la-Crosse and Timber Bay residential schools were denied settlements and apologies that other survivors have received.

Elder and survivor, Emilien Janvier will also deliver a prayer in his Dene language during the visit, and ultimately hopes for an apology from the Catholic Church.

“We talk about truth and reconciliation, who do you reconcile with without sorry?” Janvier said. “Let’s make it right what was done to us.  Let me go to bed without this on my mind.  Let’s move on.

“We can learn from the mistakes and improve upon them.”

Métis Nation-Saskatchewan survivors

Elder and survivor, Emilien Janvier will also deliver a prayer in his Dene language during the visit. Photo: Supplied

A Memorandum of Understanding was signed in 2019 between the MN-S, the federal government and the survivors of the Ile-a-la-Crosse School Steering Committee.

It stated that being left out of the survivor’s settlement scheme has had an impact on the entire Métis community in Saskatchewan.

While work on the memorandum items is ongoing, MN-S Vice President Michelle LeClair said with survivors passing away, time is of the essence to get an apology from the Church.

“Ile-a-la-Crosse is one of the biggest Métis schools that was run by the Catholic Church for about 125 years, so we’re talking 6 generations of trauma,” LeClair said.

“It was no different than an Indian Residential School in terms of if the kids didn’t show up to school, the priest would be on the boat, with the RCMP officer and those kids would be going to school.

“The Catholic Church really needs to step up and somehow mitigate the trauma that has happened to our people and again, we’re the forgotten people.”

The Ile-a-la-Crosse School opened in the 1820’s and operated until the mid-1970’s.

APTN’s Tina House and Simon Charland are travelling with the delegations from the Assembly of First Nations, Métis National Council and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.

Each delegation will have a one hour session with Pope Francis.

There will also be daily media sessions.