Mi’kmaw Elder heading to Vatican, hopes for an apology from the Pope

For weeks Mi’kmaw Elder Phyllis Googoo has been preparing her speech. As one of 13 delegates that will travel to the Vatican, and have a private meeting with Pope Francis, Googoo says she’ll talk about the impacts of residential schools.

“I saw so much in residential school, that it haunts me you know, thinking about it, other children, what I saw, a lot of different kinds of abuses,” says Googoo. 

Googoo says she’s hoping Pope Francis will fulfill the call to action 58 from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which says, “We call upon the Pope to issue an apology to Survivors, their families, and communities for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children in Catholic-run residential schools.”

It’s not clear whether Googoo will get her apology.

In October, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops said Pope Francis has accepted an invitation to visit Canada “on a pilgrimage of healing and reconciliation.”

There hasn’t been any news on whether the Pope will apologize even if he visits Canada.

A memorial outside the former Kamloops school, which was illuminated orange to honour victims of residential schools in June. Photo: APTN

Leaders of Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc Nation in British Columbia say it would be “deeply meaningful” to welcome Pope Francis to their territory.

A statement from the nation at Kamloops, B.C., where 215 unmarked graves have been discovered, says the visit would have to be more than a symbol of reconciliation.

They’re urging the Catholic Church to provide an apology from the Pope.

Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc leaders also urge the church to “demonstrate acts of contrition” and fulfil promises to disclose residential school documents and raise funds for survivors and their families.

Googoo, from We’koqma’q First Nation, was taken to the Shubenacadie residential school when she was four years old. She left when she was 14.

She says she still remembers the abuse.

“You can hear children crying because they are constantly being strapped you know you’re out of line or something or someone wet their bed and they get beaten for it,” she said.

Mi'kmaw Elder
Mi’kmaw Elder Phyllis Googoo.

The discoveries of unmarked graves on the grounds of residential schools brings back the pain for Googoo.

“When they discovered the unmarked graves, it got me bad again, I was right back to where the hurt was you now, think about the children, what they went through, you know, dying in residential school,” she said.

The First Nation’s delegation includes other residential school survivors, elders, and youth representatives.

Inuit and Métis delegates will also meet with the Pope separately.

The meetings are scheduled at the Vatican later this month.

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