Advocates want to see Pope address two-spirit, LGBTQ harms if apology happens

As First Nations, Inuit and Métis leaders meet with the Pope in Rome, two-spirit advocates are watching closely. They want any possible apology from Pope Francis to specifically address the harms of church-run residential schools on two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer communities.

Albert McLeod said the church has a role to play in transphobia, homophobia in Indigenous communities

Members of the Métis National Council met with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Monday. Pixie Wells, left, would like to see two-spirit voices included in important conversations moving forward. (Gregorio Borgia/AP)

WARNING: This story contains distressing details.

If the Pope is to make an apology to the survivors of residential schools, two-spirit advocates would like one specifically addressed to people who are two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (2SLGBTQ).

"They have to admit, principally to Indigenous people, community leaders, community organizations, leaders, that they were wrong," said Albert McLeod, a director of the Two-Spirited People of Manitoba.

McLeod, who is a member of Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation, has been watching the Assembly of First Nations delegation to Rome closely.

He said the church has a big role to play in the homophobia and transphobia that Indigenous 2SLGBTQ people face because of the "gender binary" that was imposed on those who attended residential schools.

Albert McLeod is two-spirited elder in Manitoba. He said the church has played a role in the homophobia and transphobia that 2SLGBTQ people experience in Indigenous communities. (University of Winnipeg)

"Indigenous people have been fed this lie and that's where this sort of oppression comes from and this violence comes from," said McLeod.

"There's this lie that was really, you know, imposed on children for generations … that the only way a society can function is through procreation, through male and female."

McLeod is currently a consultant with 2 Spirits in Motion, a national non-profit organization, and is working on the federal government's national action plan, which is the official response to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

In the national action plan, he says that advocates have called for an apology from seven churches for their role in what he calls the erasure of two-spirit identity in Indigenous communities.

"The church needs to admit that they were wrong.... They were working hand in hand with the federal government to manipulate the minds of these children," said McLeod.

WATCH | Métis, Inuit leaders reflect on talks with Pope:

Indigenous leaders reflect on talks with Pope

9 months ago
Duration 6:11
Two leaders of the Indigenous delegation in Rome describe their experiences meeting Pope Francis for historic reconciliation talks and what they hope will come out of the discussions.

Two-spirit representation at the Vatican

On Monday, Pixie Wells took part in the Métis National Council's meeting with the Pope and talked about the importance of including two-spirited community members at the following press conference.

"The two-spirited people are still here and we've been discommunicated from a lot of our communities and shunned and pushed aside," said Wells, who is the president of the Fraser Valley Métis Association.

Wells said they brought up two-spirit issues after their meeting with the Pope because they feel like LGBTQ communities are often left out of important conversations.

"We know going back in history that two-spirited people were very well revered. They were honoured in the communities long before colonization in the church," said Wells.

They said they would like to ensure that two-spirited and women's voices are at the forefront of conversations regarding reconciliation and that they want to help make communities safer for 2SLGBTQ people.

The Pope is expected to meet with First Nations, Inuit and Métis leaders tomorrow at 5:00 a.m. CT as they conclude the historic meetings in Rome.

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.


Lenard Monkman is Anishinaabe from Lake Manitoba First Nation, Treaty 2 territory. He has been an associate producer with CBC Indigenous since 2016. Follow him on Twitter: @Lenardmonkman1