Nishnawbe Aski Nation

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February 20, 2019

ANNE’S SURVIVOR CALLS FOR POPE TO APOLOGIZE FOR CHURCH’S ROLE IN INDIAN RESIDENTIAL SCHOOLS

THUNDER BAY, ON (February 20, 2019): Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler supports the efforts of Residential School Survivor Evelyn Korkmaz who will call for Pope Francis to apologize for the Catholic Church’s role in the Indian Residential School System during the Vatican’s 2019 global bishops meeting to address clerical sexual abuse in Rome this week.

“It takes tremendous courage for Evelyn to travel all the way to Rome to share her experience at the notorious St. Anne’s Indian Residential School with Pope Francis and bishops from around the world. I encourage Pope Francis to accept this responsibility and apologize for the suffering inflicted on our people,” said NAN Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler. “Having the Pope apologize for the harm done to generations of Indigenous children would help bring healing to our people and send a strong message about the Church’s commitment to reconciliation. It is essential that Pope Francis personally confronts the legacy of the Residential School system and delivers a formal apology.”

A statement on behalf of St. Anne’s Residential School survivors will read by Korkmaz, a member of Fort Albany First Nation, during a meeting of the world’s bishops to address the abuse and protection of minors.

The press conference was organized by Ending Clergy Abuse, a worldwide organization of human rights activists and survivors who focus on children’s and victims’ rights to compel the Roman Catholic Church to end clerical abuse, especially child sexual abuse, in order to protect children and to seek effective justice for victims.

In 2018, NAN supported a motion introduced by MP Romeo Saganash for Canadian Catholic bishops to request an apology by the Pope. The motion called on the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops to:

  • invite Pope Francis to Canada to apologize on behalf of the Catholic Church for its role in the Indian Residential School system;
  • fulfill the Church’s financial obligations to raise $25 million for Indigenous healing under the IRS Settlement Agreement; and
  • make a consistent and sustained effort to provide relevant documents to survivors.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops responded that Pope Francis has ‘not shied away from acknowledging injustices faced by Indigenous Peoples’ but felt he ‘could not personally respond.’

More than 150,000 Indigenous children were taken from their families and sent to schools run by the Catholic, Protestant, and Presbyterian churches to convert them to Christianity. Of the 139 church-run government-funded schools across Canada, the most notorious was St. Anne’s Indian Residential School.

St. Anne’s was run by the Oblate Catholic nuns in Fort Albany First Nation on the remote James Bay coast. Innocent children were malnourished, physically assaulted, sexually abused, and tortured. They went to bed hungry and lived in fear of a homemade electric chair. Some were forced to eat their own vomit.

A Papal apology is one of the 94 recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

For more information please contact:  Michael Heintzman, Director of Communications – (807) 625-4965 or cell (807) 621-2790 or by email mheintzman@nan.on.ca.

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