British Columbia

Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc chief seeks commitment from Pope to visit Kamloops residential school, issue apology

Indigenous leaders say they will push for a papal apology for the trauma inflicted on Indigenous families by residential schools when they visit the Vatican later this month.

A First Nation delegation is heading to the Vatican for a papal visit at the end of March

A woman wearing a dark blazer and a blue shirt sits at a table and leans in to speak into a microphone during a news conference. A section of her dark hair is pinned back.
Tḱemlúps te Secwépemc Kukpi7 (Chief) Rosanne Casimir wants the Pope to visit Kamloops to see the former residential school and hear from survivors, and from there, issue a formal apology for the Catholic Church's involvement in the residential school system. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

WARNING: This story contains distressing details.

Indigenous leaders say they will push for a papal apology for the trauma inflicted on Indigenous families by residential schools when they visit the Vatican later this month.

Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc Kukpi7 (Chief) Rosanne Casimir, whose nation undertook work to locate potential unmarked gravesites at the Kamloops Indian Residential School last year, said "the time is now" for the leader of the Catholic Church, which ran many of the schools, to make a formal apology.

"The visit is also going to provide an opportunity for the church to demonstrate acts of contrition and live up to the promises made of walking together on a path to truth and reconciliation and healing," Casimir told CBC's Daybreak Kamloops host Shelley Joyce.

A group of 30 Indigenous representatives have meetings scheduled with Pope Francis from March 28 to April 1. The delegates are to include Indigenous elders, knowledge keepers, residential school survivors and youth. Six bishops are also expected to attend.

Casimir said she's looking for a commitment from the Pope to come to Kamloops to see the residential school building and hear from survivors — "hearing their truth and the impacts of the role that the Catholic Church had on so many" — which she believes will move him to issue a "meaningful apology" to survivors and their families.

The former Kamloops Indian Residential School pictured on May 27, 2021. Around 200 potential burial sites have been identified at the site using ground-penetrating radar. (Andrew Snucins/The Canadian Press)

She said she also wants the Pope to visit other First Nations communities that have found unmarked graves at residential school sites.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) called for the Pope to apologize in 2015 when it released its final report on residential schools.

"We call upon the Pope to issue an apology to survivors, their families, and communities for the Roman Catholic Church's role in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children in Catholic-run residential schools," TRC call to action 58 reads.

"We call for that apology ... to occur within one year of the issuing of this report and to be delivered by the Pope in Canada."

Last year, the Pope expressed his pain over the discovery of what could be children's remains in Kamloops, but offered no apology.

Pope Francis has agreed to visit Canada to help with ongoing reconciliation efforts, but no date has been set yet.

Support is available for anyone affected by the lingering effects of residential schools and those who are triggered by the latest reports. The Indian Residential School Survivors Society can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-721-0066.

A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. Access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.

Within B.C., the KUU-US Crisis Line Society provides a First Nations and Indigenous-specific crisis line available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It's toll free and can be reached at 1-800-588-8717 or online at

With files from Daybreak Kamloops, The Current and Olivia Stefanovich