Manitoba Indigenous leaders sending citizens to witness Pope's expected apology

Two Indigenous organizations are sending folks to see the Pope deliver his apology to residential school survivors in Alberta this month.

MKO and MMF both sending buses of folks to events in Alberta

Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Grand Chief Garrison Settee visits Sioux Valley Dakota Nation in 2021 to learn more about their work to uncover graves on the property of the former Brandon Indian Residential School. (Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak/Facebook)

Pope Francis will be in Alberta later this month, and Indigenous groups in Manitoba are sending folks to hear his expected apology for those who suffered at Canada's residential schools.

Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) is setting up travel for its citizens. So far, 38 people have registered to travel to Lac St. Anne, Alta., where they will camp for the weekend during the visit. 

MKO Grand Chief Garrison Settee said the visit has been a long time coming. 

"This is very important for the people who have been harmed and have suffered much trauma in these institutions," he said. 

More than 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children were forced to attend church-run, government-funded schools between the 1870s and 1997. To date, the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation has documented more than 4,100 children who died at residential schools, as part of its work to create a national memorial register.

Settee said people have been calling for this apology for years. 

"This is what they've been asking for, this is what they've been expecting and it never came, so I think there's a sense of relief for a lot of the past leaders to see this event happen," he said.

"The apology is one thing to say that you're sorry, but what do you do to reconcile with that apology. That's something that should be discussed going forward."

The Manitoba Métis Federation said in a statement to CBC News that it is also planning to send citizens to Alberta for the Pope's visit. It said at least two buses have been confirmed and more information will be shared next week.

Pope Francis has three stops in Canada during his visit that begins on July 24.