Statement by Ministers Miller, Hajdu and Vandal at the conclusion of Pope Francis’ visit to Canada

The Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Crown−Indigenous Relations; the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Indigenous Services and Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Northern Ontario; and, the Honourable Daniel Vandal, Minister of Northern Affairs, Minister responsible for Prairies Economic Development Canada and Minister responsible for the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, issued the following statement today:

“As Pope Francis’ visit to Edmonton, Quebec City, and Iqaluit concludes, we take this moment to reflect on the events of the past week.

“For many years, First Nations, Inuit, and Métis have been calling on the pope to recognize the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse their children endured while attending residential schools. Notwithstanding government or church invitations, this visit was made possible by Survivors, Indigenous leaders and youth, who invited Pope Francis to Canada and shared their truths about the ongoing and intergenerational effects of the abuse suffered at these government− and church−run institutions.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action 58 called “…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.” The pope has acknowledged the sexual abuse that was rampant in residential schools since his initial apology in Maskwacîs on July 25; however, it is important to also recognize the systemic nature of this tragedy, that was both instigated and perpetuated by the Government of Canada and the churches, including the Catholic Church.

“It is not up to the Government of Canada to accept or decline an apology on behalf of Indigenous Peoples, and we will continue to support them as they determine what is needed for healing.

“We recognize that the events of this past week – and the revisiting of some of our country’s most tragic and painful truths – has been extremely difficult and traumatizing for many Survivors, families, and communities. And we know that the hurt and trauma they suffered continues to impact generations of Indigenous families and communities today.

“Our government recognizes that there is work to do on many fronts following the pope’s visit to Canada. Pope Francis acknowledged that concrete actions are needed, including the repatriation of Indigenous artefacts, access for Survivors to residential schools documents, addressing the Doctrine of Discovery, and ensuring justice for Survivors. We will continue to work with First Nations, Inuit and Métis on other priorities they’ve identified, to advance reconciliation and healing.”

This Media Release