Saskatoon

Residential school survivors shouldn't have to beg Pope for apology, says survivor

Pope Francis will consider Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's request for a residential school apology, but one survivor says the Vatican shouldn't have to be asked.

Residential school survivors, leaders want Pope to apologize on Canadian soil

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau presents a gift with wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau meet with Pope Francis for a private audience at the Vatican on Monday, May 29, 2017. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

The Pope shouldn't have to be asked to come to Canada and apologize for the harm inflicted by the residential school system, says one survivor.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with Pope Francis Monday and asked for an apology on behalf of residential school survivors. Following the meeting, the Vatican issued a statement saying Pope Francis will consider the request. No timeline has been given.

That doesn't sit well with Eugene Arcand. The Saskatchewan man has held a number of national positions representing survivors. In an interview Monday afternoon, Arcand emphasized he is stating his own views, and other survivors and their surviving children should be asked for theirs.

That said, the Vatican has long known about the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He said survivors deserve better.

"Surely, he could find it in his heart to come here and apologize," Arcand said.

We shouldn't have to go on our hands and knees again to this particular church to seek some level of dignity and redress for the destruction of generations of the First Peoples of this country.- Eugene  Arcand

"We shouldn't have to go on our hands and knees again to this particular church to seek some level of dignity and redress for the destruction of generations of the First Peoples of this country."

Arcand said Saskatchewan is a logical place for Francis to come for the apology. Nearly 30 per cent of all survivors attended residential schools in Saskatchewan.

Saskatoon Tribal Council Chief Felix Thomas, Regina Archdiocese Archbishop Don Bolen and others have been working to bring Francis to Wanuskewin Heritage Park near Saskatoon for the apology.

"If it was up to us, it would have happened yesterday. We'd like to think it'll happen sooner rather than later. We need to heal and move on," Thomas said in December.

Bolen said he raised the issue with Francis when Western Canadian bishops visited the Vatican in late March.

"You could see [Francis] was visibly attentive to the pain and challenges of Indigenous people," Bolen said at the time.

Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Chief Bobby Cameron said he was encouraged that Trudeau had made the request. Cameron said he'd love it if Francis issued the apology at Wanuskewin or even at a residential school location in Saskatchewan. But he'd understand if was issued in another province, as there are survivors across the country.