Tuesday, March 28, 2023

“I’ll Never Forget”: In Canada, Pope Offers Apology To Indigenous Peoples

Some seem lost, others cry, some applaud: Emotion erupts among the crowds at Maskwasis in western Canada as the pope apologizes for the harm caused to indigenous peoples.

He had been waiting for this apology for years.

“I suffer. I apologize,” declared Pope Francis, inciting the “suffering” and “trauma” that affected the Amerindian population crushed by the policy of assimilation.

Shortly after the speech, one of the chiefs placed a traditional feathered headdress over him as a sign of respect. Suddenly a woman got up to sing the Canadian anthem in Cree alone. A tear rolled down his experienced face.

“No words can describe how important this visit is to our healing journey,” said Vernon Saddleback, one of the chiefs of the Maskavasis reserve.

A few minutes earlier, to the beat of traditional songs, a huge red banner crossed the crowd gathered in a solemn atmosphere. The banners were accompanied by the names of thousands of children.

They are part of thousands of minors who died while in boarding schools and were buried in anonymous graves without informing their parents.

Many died from diseases (tuberculosis, pneumonia…), accidents, but also from abuse and carelessness as well as poor sanitary conditions.

The painful chapter of “boarding schools” in which children were forcibly put up, left at least 6,000 dead between the late 19th century and early 1990s, and caused a trauma over several generations.

Evelyn Korkmaz, who spent four years in boarding school, says, “I waited 50 years for this apology.

“I finally listened to him today, but unfortunately, many of my family members, friends … couldn’t hear him because he committed suicide,” adds the woman who wants the church to access the apprenticeship files from now on. grant access. ,

“These documents are our history” and, among other things, the names of the children killed, “these lost souls and the place of their burial.”

Among the crowd, many indigenous people dressed in their traditional robes or orange shirts, symbols of the tragic fate of children sent to boarding schools.

Banners were raised saying “every child counts” and “we stand in solidarity with our survivors”, while a psychological support center was proposed for survivors and their families.

Irene Liening Muscovekwan, wearing an orange T-shirt from the neighboring province, hopes the visit can bring “a little peace” to the survivors.

“When I was in boarding school, I didn’t even have a name, if not a number,” the woman, who spent eight years at one of those institutions, recalls to AFP. “It’s still a very painful memory,” he says, invoking his aunt who never came back from boarding school.

“I will never forget, we must not forget,” says George Arcand Jr., Grand Chief of the First Nations Confederation of Treaty n.6.

Among the participants, many feel disoriented. Divided between “sadness and joy” is Emily Thomas, a mestizo originally from downtown Winnipeg in the center of the country, and who traveled 12 hours to get to the ceremony.

Before leaving the venue, participants are invited to deposit their “tears” in a paper bag, which will then be burned, a First Nations spiritual ritual.

Nation World News Desk
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