Quebec’s Cree community to skip papal visit and focus on ‘collective healing’

Separately, 43 First Nations in Quebec issued a statement stressing that they expect an apology from the Pope.


A Cree community says it will not send a delegation to take part in Pope Francis’ visit to Quebec City and instead will engage in healing activities at a gathering of residential school survivors in northern Quebec.

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The announcement came as 43 First Nations in Quebec issued a statement emphasizing that they expect an apology during the papal visit, raising concerns over comments made over the weekend by the head of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The head of the Daisy House of the Chisasibi Cree Nation Council said that instead of sending representatives to Quebec City, “our community will focus on healing and traditional activities at the local level, a decision rooted in compassion, respect and love for survivors, alumni, and elders. and intergenerational survivors of Chisasibi.

“This week, we will be focusing on our collective strength and healing at the Fort George Residential School Annual Meeting.”

That event, planned before the pope’s visit was announced, will begin Tuesday morning with a sunrise ceremony and prayers. Over four days, participants will take part in workshops, healing circles and sweat lodges, and hear testimonies from residential school survivors.

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Between the early 19th century and the 1990s, approximately 150,000 children attended indigenous residential schools after being separated from their families and communities. Thousands of children died from disease and other causes. Many of the schools were operated by Catholic orders.

Located on the eastern shore of James Bay, about 900 miles north of Montreal, Chisasibi was the main place in Cree territory for residential schools, sites that “constantly remind us of our pain and trauma,” House said.

Last month, the Chisasibi Cree Council said it would search for unmarked graves at the sites of five residential schools operating on Fort George Island.

House said that members of Cree communities “already feel raw and challenging emotions, and this week will bring more pain in the days to come.

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“Our hope is that the survivors and alumni are in a safe place during this papal visit, surrounded by family and loved ones, in the comfort of their community.”

House added: “As we witness this historic visit, we reiterate that actions speak louder than words. We continue to call on Pope Francis to direct his bishops and the Canadian church to fully cooperate with First Nations in accessing the historical records they hold, records that will help our healing journey far more than this visit.”

On Monday, Ghislain Picard, head of the Assembly of First Nations Québec-Labrador (AFNQL), questioned the intentions of Bishop Raymond Poisson, who said over the weekend that the pope has already apologized to Canadian indigenous communities.

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“The apologies were made (at the Vatican)” in April, said Poisson, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. Le Devoir. “We will allude to it, of course, but we are not starting from scratch. You need to move on.”

Ghislain Picard, head of the Quebec-Labrador Assembly of First Nations.
Ghislain Picard, head of the Quebec-Labrador Assembly of First Nations. Photo by Pierre Obendrauf /Montreal Gazette

In reaction, Picard said, “Indigenous communities don’t travel hundreds or even thousands of miles to attend a celebration.

“They will do it to receive an apology for the physical, psychological and spiritual abuse they have suffered for generations. The visit will be a failure if the survivors, who have had only a few weeks to organize their trip to Quebec City, do not hear the apologies of Pope Francis himself.”

The AFNQL pointed out that “the Catholic Church remains the only congregation that has not yet apologized directly to the survivors to contribute to their individual healing and the collective healing of indigenous peoples for the damage suffered for more than a century under the system of residential schools. .”

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The organization said Pope Francis’ visit to Canada “is an opportunity for the Catholic Church, as an institution, to offer a real apology and allow all those who need to hear it to begin their healing process with the respect they deserve.

“Thousands of people will travel to Ste-Anne-de-Beaupré in the coming days in the hope of personally receiving the Pope’s apology. Both the indigenous delegation received at the Vatican last April and the survivors insist on the importance of an apology being delivered in their ancestral territories, in their presence.”

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