Residential school survivors gather during papal mass at Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré

Three residential school survivors who attended the papal mass at Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré Basilica outside Quebec City say they wanted to come to see the Pope in person.

Bella Jolly from Nemaska says Cree language interpretation of service would have helped

Mike Ashamock and Madeline Scott are survivors from St. Anne's residential school in Fort Albany First Nation, Ont., who travelled to Quebec City with a delegation from their community. (Francine Compton/CBC)

WARNING: This story contains distressing details.

Residential school survivors and their families created a sea of orange shirts and ribbons skirts across the lawn of the Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré Basilica outside Quebec City for Thursday's papal mass.

Three residential school survivors who attended the mass say they wanted to come to see the Pope in person.

Madeline Scott was forced to attend Catholic-run St. Anne's residential school in northern Ontario for nine years.

"I'm not happy and I'm not satisfied," she said of the Pope's visit so far.

She was at the event for her mother, who died in May. Her mother visited the shrine twice in her lifetime. 

"I dedicated this trip to my mom," said Scott.

"She used to come here. I come in her place." 

Scott is an educator from Fort Albany First Nation who also came here to speak up for her community.

"Our children are losing language," she said.

"I want them to be able to be happy to enter a school and not be reminded of what happened to us as survivors."

She traveled nearly 800 kilometres on a bus from Timmins, Ont., with a group of 29 people that included Mike Ashamock.

Ashamock was forced to attend St. Anne's residential school for 10 years.

Standing on the grass in front of the basilica, Ashamock said he remembers being punished by a priest for running away, the supervisor holding his hands down while he was strapped on the hands and the bum.

He said he has a hard time expressing how he feels about what he's heard the Pope say so far.

"It's very hard to say which way to go," he said.

Residential school survivor Bella Jolly from the Cree Nation of Nemaska says she walked away feeling like survivors weren't really being recognized, between all the politicians and the Pope. (Francine Compton/CBC)

Bella Jolly from the Cree Nation of Nemaska made it inside for the mass in which Pope Francis spoke briefly about reconciliation during the homily. She left the basilica a few minutes before it ended because she had trouble following the Pope's service in Spanish.

"I didn't understand the language," said Jolly.

"It's not that I'm disrespecting him. It's just that I didn't understand because I'm a Cree."

Jolly was forced to attend three different Anglican-run residential schools, in Moose Factory Ont., and in Fort George and La Tuque Que.

Three Innu sisters sing offertory hymn at Pope Francis's mass

6 months ago
Duration 3:29
Sisters Élisabeth, Jeannette and Solange Vollant, from the Innu community of Pessamit, on Quebec's North Shore, sing the offertory hymn, which is sung before the preparation of the Eucharist, at the mass presided over by Pope Francis at Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré Basilica in Quebec.

Jolly said she was able to understand a little bit when a hymn was sung in Innu but wished there were interpreters for her Cree language.

There were a few words said by the Pope that Jolly could understand and she took those ones with her.

"I accept his apology because for my healing journey that's how I'm going to move on, if I don't hold on to the past."

Support is available for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools or by the latest reports.

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

Mental health counselling and crisis support is also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week through the Hope for Wellness hotline at 1-855-242-3310 or by online chat at


Francine Compton covers national news for CBC Indigenous in Winnipeg. She has also worked as an executive producer in Ottawa. You can reach her at