Indigenous Catholic priest on Pope's visit and residential schools

Few issues in the history of this young country garner the same level of emotion as our residential schools, a troubling legacy which did not end in Canada until 1996.

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While these schools were funded and administered by the federal government, they were often run by local churches and religious organizations. While there has certainly been a great deal of politicized misinformation about the schools, including recent inaccurate reporting of so called ‘mass graves’, there is no denying the harm imposed on indigenous communities and the often-thoughtless destruction of indigenous customs and norms, not to mention the instances of abuse and treatment not in line with the dignity of human persons.

Pope Francis is set to arrive in Canada next week with hopes of healing the hurts caused by the Catholic Church’s involvement in residential schools, and I joined a Catholic priest with indigenous roots, Fr. Cristino Bouvette, who is a principal organizer for the Papal visit, to learn about his deeply personal connection to this story.

We delved into Fr. Cristino’s familial connection to residential schools and the apparent, albeit artificial, dichotomy between being a Catholic priest and having indigenous roots. We also broke down the details surrounding the history of the management of the schools, as well as discussing whether the Church has officially apologized.

Pope Francis has stated that he hopes this trip will lead to healing, so we discussed what that means both in spiritual and pragmatic terms and whether Canada’s clean drinking water crisis on reservation may be addressed by the Pope.

We also discussed the troubling divides being caused by mainstream media misinformation, particularly in reference to the debunked mass graves headlines, and the central role of authentic and transparent truth in the process of truth and reconciliation.

For all of our upcoming on the ground reports from Pope Francis’ visit to Canada and to help cover the costs associated with bringing you the other side of this story go to

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