The healing and reconciliation delegation to the Vatican of First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples along with representatives of the Canadian Catholic Church has been postponed.
In a joint statement on Dec. 7 , the Canadian Conference of Bishops. the Assembly of First Nations, the Metis National Council and the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, stated that a planned meeting with Pope Francis to seek an apology for historic treatment of Indigenous peoples in Canada’s residential schools has to be held next year.
“After careful assessment of the uncertainty and potential health risks surrounding international travel amid the recent spread of the Omicron variant, the Canadian Bishops, Assembly of First Nations, Métis National Council, and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami have jointly decided to reschedule a delegation to the Vatican in December 2021 to the earliest opportunity in 2022,” states the delegation’s statement.
“The decision to postpone was a heartbreaking one, made after careful consultation with delegates, family members, community leaders, public health officials and the leadership of each of the three National Indigenous Organizations. Particularly for many elderly delegates as well as those who live in remote communities, the risk of infection and the fluid nature of the evolving global situation presents too great a threat at this time.”
Dene National Chief Norman Yakeleya, who is also regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations oversees the reconciliation file for AFN. He had been planning to lead the delegation to the Vatican as a historic healing and reconciliation journey to meet with the Pope from Dec. 17 to 20.
Yakeleya announced on Nov. 25 that the group of travellers will consist of a mix of Indigenous Elders, knowledge keepers, residential school survivors and youth to meet with the Holy Father in private meetings. Participants include:
Manitoba Regional Chief Cindy Woodhouse, Chief Wilton Littlechild, Delegation Spokesperson, Fred Kelly, Spiritual Advisor, Phil Fontaine, Knowledge Keeper, Kukpi7 Chief Rosanne Casimir, Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation, Rosalie LaBillois, New Brunswick AFN youth representative, and Taylor Tsakoza-Behn, BC AFN youth representative.
The delegation’s statement on Wednesday promises to keep the public up to date as new plans develop and that public health safety of participants will be a priority international travel.
“Currently, the world’s health experts are still learning about the transmissibility of the Omicron variant. As more information becomes available, we will continue to assess the feasibility of future travel plans, based on guidance from the Canadian government and relevant international authorities,” the delegation stated.