MPs vote to call on Pope, again, for residential schools apology

Among the 94 calls to action by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was a request for an apology

NDP MP Charlie Angus holds a feather as he rises to vote in favour of the NDP’s motion calling on the House of Commons to officially ask the Pope to apologize to residential school survivors, on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, May 1, 2018. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Members of Parliament on all sides of the House of Commons voted Tuesday to extend a formal invitation to Pope Francis to apologize in person to Indigenous Peoples for decades of abuse meted out in residential schools across Canada.

New Democrat MPs Charlie Angus and residential school survivor Romeo Saganash introduced the motion, which passed by a margin of 269-10. Cheers erupted for both MPs as they stood to vote; Angus held aloft a feather as his vote was acknowledged.

“I’m very, very confident that Pope Francis will respond and I’m hopeful that the Catholic bishops in Canada will hear this message and say, ‘Yes, we have come to the table,” Angus told a news conference following the vote.

Angus said he would “not lose any sleep” over the handful of MPs who voted against the motion, all of whom were Conservatives, and instead chose to focus on the “overwhelming response” from members of all political backgrounds.

“This to me is an incredible outpouring of support and solidarity for the issues of reconciliation.”

READ MORE: Bishops try to clarify Pope’s refusal to apologize for residential schools

Among the 94 calls to action by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was a request for an apology — to be delivered in Canada by the pontiff himself — for the church’s role in the residential school abuse of First Nations, Inuit and Métis children. An estimated 150,000 of children were forced to attend the schools, many of which were operated by the Roman Catholic Church.

But in March, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops said that while the Pope acknowledged the commission’s findings and expressed regret for past wrongs, he “felt he could not personally respond.”

The Pope’s decision pushed NDP MPs to launch the motion soon after, which also calls on the Catholic Church to pay money owed to residential school survivors and to turn over relevant documentation regarding the government-sponsored schools.

The vote comes two weeks after Conservative MP Garnett Genuis opposed a bid for unanimous support for an earlier version of the motion, which urged the bishops to invite Pope Francis to apologize.

Last month, the conference described reports of the Pope’s decision as “misinformation,” saying it was the role of Canadian bishops, not the pontiff, to work towards advancing reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.

Northwest Territories regional chief Bill Erasmus, who holds the portfolio for residential schools for the Assembly of First Nations, says having the Pope travel to Canada to deliver an in-person apology is a necessary step to right the wrongs of abuse.

“Part of the reason people want an apology is to first of all have the church admit they did harm,” Erasmus said. ”Then you can forgive them, you can actually accept the apology.”

Erasmus said both his father and grandfather were residential school survivors, although his father did not live to see the Canadian government’s apology in 2008 for its role in running the schools.

Still, hearing the Pope also accept responsibility and seek forgiveness would have made his father happy, Erasmus said.

“It makes it real and it helps the healing — it helps to sort things out, so people can move forward and move on with their lives.”

Raisa Patel, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

North Road proposal draws heat

Public meeting to address Canfor request

First farmers market fosters a sense of community

Vendors and customers alike excited for return of market

Chief Dr. Robert Joseph awarded Order of Canada

An inspiration and role model for all Canadians

Workshop to help businesses find that perfect employee

Selling location and lifestyle one strategy for success

National ecology expert holds workshop in Fort St. James

Use of natural materials vital for environmental restoration

Police release video on how to ‘run, hide, fight’ if there’s an active shooter

Vancouver police offer video with input from E-Comm, BC EHS, Vancouver Fire and Rescue

B.C. dad pens letter urging overhaul of youth health laws after son’s fatal overdose

The Infants Act currently states children under 19 years old may consent to medical treatment on own

Singh sides with B.C. in hornet’s nest of pipeline politics for the NDP

Singh had called for a more thorough environmental review process on the proposal

VIDEO: Campers leave big mess at rural Vancouver Island campsite

Vehicle parts, garbage, a mattress, lawn chairs, beer cans, and even fecal matter left in the area

30 C in B.C., 30 cm of snow expected for eastern Canada

It might be hot in B.C., but the rest of Canada still dealing with cold

Horgan defends fight to both retain and restrict Alberta oil imports

Alberta says pipeline bottlenecks are kneecapping the industry, costing millions of dollars a day

RCMP caution boaters after two kids pass out from carbon monoxide poisoning

Both children were given oxygen and taken to hospital

Barkerville opens for the season

Highlights of Barkerville’s upcoming season include 150th Dominion Day and pack train re-creation

B.C. invests $115M to create 200 new nurse practitioner jobs

Health Minister says 780,000 B.C. residents don’t have a family doctor

Most Read