During a 30-minute private meeting with Pope Francis on Monday at the Vatican, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asked the pontiff to issue a formal apology to Indigenous peoples of Canada
“I then told him about how important it is for Canadians that we move forward on a real reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and highlighted how he could help by issuing an apology," Trudeau said of the meeting.
Trudeau said the pope was open to working with him and Canadian bishops to figure out a path forward together. Trudeau also invited the pope to visit Canada in coming years.
In the 19th century, the Canadian government decided it was responsible for educating the country’s Indigenous people. They created “aggressive assimilation,” which was a policy to be taught at residential schools, which were church-run, government-funded institutions.
About 150,000 First Nation, Inuit and Métis children were removed from their communities and placed in residential schools, where many were victims of emotional, physical, spiritual, and sexual abuse.
Canada has since called on its government to recognize, apologize, and compensate victims. Among the goals of theTruth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) was a commitment to assess the impact of residential school experiences and produce a report on the legacy of the residential school system.
The TRC released a report with 94 recommended calls to action “in order to redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation.”
One of its recommendations called for an apology from the Pope to survivors, their families, and communities for the Church’s role in the overall abuse of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children in Catholic-run residential schools.
In the past, Prime Minister Trudeau has promised to act on all of them.
Another topic of conversation with the pope on Monday was climate change. Trudeau said he congratulated Pope Francis on his global leadership on climate change and that they talked about the importance of highlighting the scientific basis of protecting our planet, as well as the moral and ethical obligation to build a better future for all people.
A statement from the Vatican also added, “In the light of the results of the recent G7 summit, attention turned to various matters of an international nature, with special attention to the Middle East and areas of conflict.”
The Vatican called the discussions “cordial” and Trudeau seemed quite enthusiastic following the conversation, “I also had an opportunity to have a deeply personal and wide-ranging, thoughtful conversation with the leader of my own faith.”