July 12th, 2024

Legacy of Hope supports delegation to Vatican

By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on March 31, 2022.

Canadian Press/Vatican Media Pope Francis and church leaders pose with a Canadian delegation this week at the Vatican, as residential school survivors and leaders had meetings with the head of the Roman Catholic Church.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDapulido@lethbridgeherald.com

Residential school survivors and delegates are meeting with Pope Francis this week to seek an apology from the Catholic Church, and the Legacy of Hope Foundation is fully supporting them.
National president of the LHF Adam North Peigan, who is from the Piikani First Nation in Treaty 7, said the visit to the Vatican by the Indian Residential School survivors is long overdue.
“This trip was actually supposed to happen about a year and a half ago, but due to the pandemic it got postponed,” said North Peigan.
He said 32 survivors and delegates from the First Nations, Metis and Inuit delegations left the country on Friday and among them a representative from Alberta, Wilton Littlechild, who is from the Ermineskin reserve in Maskwacis, and one of three members appointed as a commissioner to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
“I believe on Monday the delegation from the Metis community as well as the Inuit community went and had a visit with his Holy Father the Pope at the Vatican. The survivors had the opportunity to share their heartbreaking stories with the Holy Father and it’s come to our attention that the Pope was listening very intently,” said North Peigan.
He said the Pope was very empathetic to the gut wrenching stories he heard from the survivors and today the First Nations delegates will be meeting with him to share their stories.
He added that on Friday there will be a final public audience with 150 survivors, delegates, family members and support staff.
“What the Legacy of Hope Foundation in Canada is hoping is that at the end of the day there will be a commitment made from the Pope that he will announce on Friday that indeed he will in fact issue an apology to all residential school survivors in Canada on Turtle Island (North America),” said North Peigan.
He said they are also hoping that apology will happen in Canada on Indigenous land somewhere within Canada.
“The Pope needs to come over to Canada to issue that apology because if it’s done through simulcast through the Vatican, a lot of our survivors in Canada will not be able to bear witness of the Pope issuing that apology,” said North Peigan.
He said the apology is very important to all Canadians in moving reconciliation forward between the Indigenous community and the mainstream community.
“When the government of Canada struck up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and they had national gatherings right across Canada, 94 calls to action came out of the TRC report and one of those actions actually calls for a papal apology from the Pope on Canadian soil,” said North Peigan.
He said the apology is also needed by those that never attended residential schools, as many today are inter-generationally impacted.
“I’m a product of the residential school because my parents and my grandparents attended residential school. I’ve been inter-generationally impacted from the atrocities of the residential schools, from the ’60s scoop which was just a continuation of the residential school process,” said North Peigan.
He said even his children have been impacted by the residential schools even though they are two generations apart from the survivors in his family.
“But there is a lot of hope that our communities across Canada will come to a place where we can build, that we are equal partners to all Canadians,” said North Peigan.
He said that since steps have been already taken to move reconciliation forward, he believes an apology from the Pope would bring things in full circle.
North Peigan said there is one other thing the LHF is hoping the delegates accomplish with their visit to the Vatican, and that is to repatriate some Indigenous artifacts that are housed at the Vatican to be able to bring them back and place them where they rightfully belong.
“Whether they were moccasins, whether it was bead work, whether it was Inuit carvings, whether it was Metis sashes, some of those artifacts were taken and stripped from those Indian residential school survivors,” said North Peigan.
North Peigan said the Pope needs to also step forward and help the LHF move the process along with some promised funding from the Church in Canada.
“When the Indian residential schools settlement began in the early negotiations, the Roman Catholic Church Diocese of Canada made a commitment that they would provide, I believe, around $64 million to promote healing and reconciliation for the Indian residential school survivors. We have still not seen any of that,” said North Peigan.
He said at the end of the day, they are very hopeful and supportive of the residential school survivors that traveled to the Vatican.
“We’re very, very optimistic that there will be an apology coming from the Holy Father, and we’re very adamant that needs to happen in Canada on Indigenous land. This would be a huge step forward for all Canadians in moving reconciliation forward for the Indigenous people of Turtle Island,” said North Peigan.

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