Most Canadians felt that Pope Francis’ recent visit to their country advanced the cause of reconciliation between native peoples and the Catholic Church, a survey found.
Some 60% of Canadians said the pope’s “penitential pilgrimage,” undertaken to apologize for the Church’s role in the nation’s policy of forcefully assimilating indigenous children into Canadian culture, was a step in the right direction.
“The Angus Reid Institute released the findings from its latest online poll in which nearly 60% of participants said they saw the Pope’s apology as a meaningful step toward reconciliation, while 32% said it did nothing to move reconciliation forward,” The Globe and Mail reported. “Respondents who self-identified as Indigenous were less likely to say the apology contributed to reconciliation, at 54%, and 36% said the gesture made no difference.”
The trip took the pope to Alberta, Quebec, and Nunavut, from July 24 to 30. In the photo above, he meets with “Indian residential school” alumni at Nakasuk Elementary School Square in Iqaluit, Nunavut, July 29.
The journey focused on the Church’s role in the residential schools, where, beginning in the 19th century, native children were forcibly taken from their families and placed in boarding facilities where they were not permitted to use their native languages or dress in traditional attire. There were various types of abuse, and many of the children who died at the schools – from disease, neglect of abuse – were never reunited with their families.
Road to reconcilation
A Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which began work in 2007, listed a number of recommendations, including an apology from the pope.
Although more than 60% of the schools were run by the Catholic Church — particularly Catholic religious orders — Anglican, Methodist, United, Presbyterian, Baptist, and Mennonite groups ran residential schools as well.
The Angus Reid Institute said that two-thirds of respondents who followed the papal voyage viewed his apology as sincere, said The Globe and Mail.
Half the participants said the federal government, Christian churches, and society hold equal responsibility for creating the residential school system and allowing it to persist. …
The poll suggests respondents’ prior views on the relationship between Canada and Indigenous Peoples was a significant driver of whether they viewed the Pope’s trip and apology as something that represented a step toward reconciliation.
“If you’re of the view that it’s worsening, then you’re also more likely to think that the papal visit made no difference towards reconciliation,” said Shachi Kurl, president of the institute.
“If you’re somebody who thinks that that is a relationship that is improving, people express more optimism or a sense that yes, the trip did represent a meaningful step toward reconciliation.”
The survey also found that more than half of respondents said there needs to be more investigations into residential schools before the country can move forward.
This past spring, Indigenous leaders went to Rome to tell the pope their stories, and the bishops of Canada invited the pontiff to come and meet with the Indigenous people on their own land.