Indigenous Canadians ask Pope Francis to ‘show me the money’

ROME — A prominent organization of Inuit Canadians has insisted Pope Francis’ apology was insufficient, calling on the Catholic Church to pay monetary reparations.

Pope Francis’ apology is “just one step towards reconciliation,” Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI) said in a statement following the pontiff’s statement of sadness this week for the way many Christians “have supported the colonizing mentality of the powers that oppressed the indigenous populations.”

“Inuit have finally been heard and their experiences recognized,” said Aluki Kotierk, president of NTI, who sent a delegation of 55 Inuit from Nunavut to Edmonton to witness the papal apology.

Now, NTI has asked the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops to provide funding to the Tunngavik Foundation of Nunavut for culture and healing programs for Nunavut Inuit negatively affected by their time in residential schools.

Pope Francis blesses the lake during Lac Ste. Anne Pilgrimage and Liturgy of the Word at Lac Ste. Anne, northwest of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, July 26, 2022. (VINCENZO PINTO/AFP via Getty)

NTI is not the only Indigenous group seeking monetary reparations from the Catholic Church for past wrongdoings.

In June, New Democratic Party (NDP) MP Charlie Angus said the pope’s words of sadness “ring hollow in Canada” and should be supported financially.

“Grief is not an admission of guilt. Anyone can feel sad when children die,” Angus said in a statement. “He must take responsibility for the policies that caused these deaths. It’s time to apologize, hand over the documents and pay the money.

Chief Bobby Cameron of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations of Saskatchewan is another Indigenous leader who has called for a more practical financial response from the Catholic Church to address the trauma experienced by residential school students.

“We would like to see immediate action, whether they pull it out of their own pocket or whatever. If the will is there, and the sincerity is there, and the heart is there on the part of the Catholic Church in Canada, they will find a way,” he said last August.

Indigenous Canadians ask Pope Francis to 'show me the money'

An indigenous woman experiences an emotional moment as Pope Francis holds an outdoor mass at Commonwealth Stadium during his visit to Alberta, Canada on July 26, 2022. (Lincoln Ho/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Indigenous Canadians ask Pope Francis to 'show me the money'

Clergy members overlook Lake St. Anne during Pope Francis’ visit to Alberta, Canada on July 26, 2022. (Lincoln Ho/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Given the scale of the damage, Cameron said the Church’s response should be far greater than the $25 million pledged in 2006.

“I would say over $500 million,” Cameron said. “Because there are a lot of survivors and descendants – there are hundreds of thousands of people affected by this. There is a lot of healing and initiative to help our First Nations move forward.

Chief Robert Joseph of Reconciliation Canada welcomed the pope’s apology this week, but insisted the absence of an action plan to redress the harm caused by residential schools in the papal text was notable and disappointing.

“The pope would have been much more forceful if he had said we have a plan to implement reconciliation,” said Joseph, the hereditary chief of the Gwawaenuk First Nation.

According to the BBC, Pope Francis’ promise of church support this week to Indigenous peoples in Canada “may have seemed like a step in the right direction for those who say compensation and investment – to a way that would benefit indigenous peoples – will really help to make amends.”


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