“For many, an apology is enough,” it’s the one thing that can turn things around for many who have suffered for too long,” said residential school Survivor Maata Evaluardjuk-Palmer on Pope Francis’ apology to residential school survivors.
On July 25 the leader of the Catholic Church apologized for the “physical, verbal, psychological and spiritual” abuses in residential schools. Sexual abuse experienced in the residential school system was not specifically mentioned by the Pope.
She is one of the three Inuit members of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation’s (NCTR) Survivor’s Circle alongside Navalik Tologanak and Edna Elias. Evaluardjuk-Palmer was born and raised on the land before being made to relocate to Frobisher Bay, which would later be renamed to Iqaluit, she attended Apex Federal Day School from 1960 to 1967 and Churchill Vocational School from 1967-68.
She acknowledges while there is division with the Pope’s visit, it is still a necessary step for Survivors to begin their healing journey.
“The Pope’s visit is monumental to all Survivors, especially those who attended the Roman Catholic residential schools and their families. The change may happen in how we view the Roman Catholic religion when we hear the apology,” she said. “It may take awhile to process it all, as it has been one of the (more) notorious abusers in many aspects, such as mentally, spiritually, physically and sexually.”
The Survivor’s Circle helps guide the NCTR in ensuring Survivors’ perspectives remain at the centre of its policies.
Accepting the invitation to be one of the Inuit voices for the Circle was something Evaluardjuk-Palmer gave a lot of thought to before accepting.
“I felt it would be beneficial not only for me, but for other Inuit Survivors, once I realized that the National Centre is for all Survivors across Canada.”
“As an Inuit member of the Survivor’s Circle, I, along with the other Inuit members, bring Inuit perspective and voice to the Circle.”
Something Evaluardjuk-Palmer wanted to stress however, is for all Inuit to keep practicing and engaging with their culture.
“As Inuit we have to keep our Qulliqs burning, continue to speak our language, practice our way of worship, keep teaching our children our culture with lived experiences. Therefore, we have to continue to take part in it with every opportunity that’s presented to us.”