From July 24-29, Pope Francis visited Canada to apologize to Indigenous communities for the involvement of the Catholic Church in residential schools. This historic papal visit cost an estimated $35-100 million, funded by various organizations and individuals, the federal government, the provincial governments of Alberta and Quebec, the cities that were visited, and the Catholic Church.
The Pope’s tour asking for forgiveness was an attempt at reconciliation that was well received by many, but not all, survivors of residential schools. While some appreciated and saw spiritual significance in the effort to apologize on behalf of the church for past events, others felt that the tremendous effort involved and tens of millions put forward in funding could have been better used to address some of the current issues that face many Indigenous communities today.
One of these pressing issues is the 27 First Nations communities that still don’t have access to clean and safe water. Many of these communities are under boil water advisories and are faced with toxic and carcinogenic water that prevents children from bathing more than once a week without burning their skin.
In 2015, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to provide clean water for all of these communities by the end of his first term. Seven years later, $4 billion has been spent on these projects, yet many Indigenous people are still having to drink expensive bottled water and shower no more than once a week.
The Liberal Party often claims during election season that a lack of funding from conservative politicians is the reason this hasn’t been dealt with, but the real reason is far more complicated than a scarcity of financial support and involves an age-old system of bureaucracy, corruption, and greed.
The Federal government contributed 35 million of the total cost of up to potentially 100 million dollars for the in-person public apology for residential schools from Pope Francis. The Alberta government also contributed 20 million in funding. Some argue that these taxpayer dollars could have been better spent improving infrastructure on First Nations lands, and improving many of their daily lives in ways that could help lower the poverty rate. The combined effort of the government, church, and Canadians to organize the visit could have also been put towards finding tangible fixes for the ongoing clean water crisis, instead of ignoring systematic problems and delaying solutions.
I took to the busy streets of downtown Toronto to ask Canadians whether or not they think the funding for the apology for the past could have been better spent on providing a brighter future for First Nations communities.
If you want to help Rebel News put the pressure on politicians to find a real solution to the clean water crisis, and use taxpayer dollars to improve infrastructure instead of funding more apology tours, head over to CleanWaterNow.ca and sign our petition.