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1987: The Pope travels North, keeping his promise

It was one of the biggest events in Canadian history. On Sept. 9, 1984 Pope John Paul II kissed the tarmac in Quebec City to kick off the first Canadian papal visit. In the frenzied atmosphere of a rock concert, Canadians flocked for a fleeting glimpse of the Holy Father. Over the next 12 days the Pope stirred millions with his condemnation of injustice and poverty, along with his traditional stance on birth control and divorce.

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 It takes three years but the Pope keeps his word, finally making his long-awaited visit to Fort Simpson, N.W.T.
The day starts off overcast with a steady drizzle. Panic sets in as organizers recall the conditions that prevented the Pope from visiting this remote village back in 1984. There's a collective sigh of relief when the sun finally breaks through just in time for the Pope's five-hour visit.

For people who have known too many broken promises, the Pope's presence in this Dene village takes on a special significance. John Paul II is especially sympathetic to the struggle for native rights and calls for a new round of constitutional talks. Federal ministers take notice. They tell the CBC that talks are already underway to find a new process to negotiate aboriginal rights.

• The Pope was on his way to the United States for a papal visit when he stopped over in Fort Simpson for five hours.
• Fort Simpson is situated on an island where the MacKenzie River meets the Liard River and is located 500 km from the Arctic Circle. Early missionaries first brought Christianity to this area in the 1850s.
Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: Sept. 20, 1987
Host: Peter Mansbridge
Reporter: Whit Fraser
Duration: 4:09

Last updated: September 20, 2013

Page consulted on September 22, 2014

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