As the nation watched the man some believe to be the direct link between the living and the divine make several stops across Canada, apologizing in every direction and begging forgiveness for the crimes of his organization, at least one of its victims has said “No thanks.”
In the lead-up to Pope Francis’s six-day visit to Canada, the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation publicly declined the invite to meet with him. The reason being, they said, is the IRC isn’t convinced the Catholic Church is fully committed to the costs attached to true reconciliation.
In a region where ‘God Save the Queen’ is still regularly played at public event and every single festival, feast and committee meeting is opened with a prayer, this is an incredibly bold move that takes a great deal of courage and conviction.
Christianity has only been in the Canadian north for three centuries and so far its track record is largely not something to brag about. Regardless, many people here are deeply devoted to their faith. Even last summer, as we gathered to honour children killed in Catholic-run residential schools, the event was marked with prayers and thanks to the man upstairs.
I cannot begin to imagine the internal conflict many residential school survivors are having right now. The peer pressure to accept the Pope’s apology and move on must be tremendous.
So let me just put this out there — You do not have to accept Pope Francis’ apology if you are not ready.
Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island — really of the entire planet — are the largest collective trauma survivors on Earth. The techniques used to subjugate those people already living in the territories colonizers invaded were largely the same wherever they went: Prevent people from sustaining themselves off their traditional practices, demonize their spiritual practices as sinful and satanic so they are abandoned and lost to the void, then bring in all the vices of civilization and the inequality that comes with it. The next three Popes could spend their entire careers travelling the world apologizing and probably wouldn’t even scratch the surface.
Meanwhile, as his holiness travels and the church haggles over what compensation it owes, there’s still more gold, precious jewels and stolen artifacts in the Vatican than in most of the world. A simple “Sorry we destroyed your civilization trying to kill you all. Our bad,” really shouldn’t cut it.
In the wake of the Papal visit, there will be those who will want to put the issue to rest, saying with the divine apology this chapter in Canadian history has concluded. It hasn’t. At most, this is the Church acknowledging it has something to atone for.
There are still thousands of children unaccounted for in the fields of former residential schools. Millions — if not billions — worth of stolen items, time, land and water have yet to be returned to their original owners. Grollier and Stringer Hall may be demolished, but their ghosts will be with northerners for a very long time.
No one should feel obligated to forgive the Church for its crimes because of a six-day media blitz. This is your trauma and you have a right to heal on your terms. Not the Church’s, not the government’s and certainly not at the convenience of colonists.