Pope Francis’ arrival in Canada signals for many a step towards hope and healing, and yet for others his visit is considered too little, too late in terms of the pain cause by Canada’s residential schools. One thing that is nearly universally agreed upon among people we’ve spoken with is that politicians like Justin Trudeau attempting to capitalize on and politicize indigenous hardships is repugnant.
Edmonton, Alberta is enveloped in papal action, with flags signaling the Pope’s visit everywhere and people everywhere from Jasper Ave, near the central media hub for the visit, to the various papal stops shouting both in support and in opposition to the Pope’s arrival in the streets. Last week, I was in the city to speak Fr. Cristino Bouvette, an Indigenous priest involved in organizing the visit, to discuss the visit.
If nothing else, the Pope’s visit is certainly renewing the conversation surrounding schools, so much so that as I was arriving in Edmonton at the media accreditation site, I was approached by a residential school survivor who wanted to share her story.
I learned about her experience, and we discussed her indecision over whether the Pope’s visit was positive or negative for Indigenous communities. She criticized the media for their dishonesty over the discovery of ‘mass graves’, highlighting how Indigenous communities have know about the inaccurately reported discoveries, some of which turned out to be old cemeteries and lost orchards not mass graves, for decades. We also talked about politicians appropriating Indigenous issues for personal gain, and how addressing current issues like clean drinking water for Indigenous communities would likely be more meaningful than an apology tour.
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