(Prime Minister Stephen Harper during a previous visit to the Vatican. PMO/Handout)
APTN National News
OTTAWA—The Harper government again ducked questions from the NDP on whether the prime minister will ask the Pope to apologize for the Church’s involvement in Indian residential schools during a planned meeting Thursday.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is scheduled to meet with the Pope in Vatican City during a two day stop in Italy. Harper is scheduled to meet with the Pope on the seventh anniversary of the prime minister’s residential school apology.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) called for Pope Francis to apologize within a year for the treatment of Indigenous children at Catholic-run Indian residential schools.
NDP leader Thomas Mulcair pressed the federal government on the issue during question period Wednesday.
“The prime minister is scheduled to meet…the Pope at the Vatican tomorrow. Will the prime minister ask Pope Francis to apologize on behalf of the Church for its involvement in the horrors of residential schools?” said Mulcair.
Aboriginal Affairs Minister Barnard Valcourt ducked the question and again repeated talking points stating that he has written to the provinces, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Vatican on the TRC’s recommendations.
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde is also calling on Harper to ask the Pope for an apology.
“June 11 is the seventh anniversary of the prime minister’s own apology for residential schools and it is an appropriate time for the prime minister to make this request,” said AFN spokesperson Don Kelly.
At least, 3,500 children died at residential schools, mostly from tuberculosis. Many are buried in unmarked graves scattered across the country.
APTN has obtained historical documents showing the upper echelons of the Church in Canada were directly involved in the operations of Indian residential schools. The Church used TB-infected children as pawns in a battle to have Ottawa send sick children from Catholic schools to Catholic sanatoriums.
Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast has told APTN requesting an apology from the Pope is “asking for too much.”
The Pope could visit Canada as early as 2017, said Prendergast.
The Vatican embassy in Ottawa has said it sent the TRC’s report to Rome.
Letter from Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt to Vatican