Manitoba Metis Federation president preparing to meet the Pope

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Although the Indigenous delegation headed to Vatican is now delaying its trip due to concerns over the Omicron variant, the president of the Manitoba Metis Federation is ready to bring his message to Pope Francis, when the time comes. Global's Marney Blunt has more – Dec 7, 2021

The president of the Manitoba Metis Federation says he plans on asking the Pope to come to Canada and offer an official apology for the Catholic Church’s role in residential schools.

“Coming from the Pope, (an apology) will have such immense power in starting true healing,” David Chartrand told Global News.

Read more: Indigenous delegation delays Vatican trip due to Omicron COVID-19 variant, says AFN Chief

David Chartrand is one several First Nations, Inuit and Metis delegates that had been planning to meet with Pope Francis from Dec. 17 to 20.

Those plans were postponed Tuesday over growing concerns about the Omicron COVID-19 variant. The groups say they hope to reschedule it for the “earliest opportunity in 2022.”

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When Global News spoke to Chartrand before Tuesday’s announcement, he said the meeting would be a “proud day” for him.

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“It will be something I will carry with me to my last breath, of pride in representing my people,” he said.

In addition to asking for a official apology on Canadian soil, Chartrand says he will present the Pope with a beaded cross and mukluks. He will also ask that the Pope visit and bless Louis Riel’s gravesite, and help strengthen the relationship between the Catholic Church and Metis communities.

Read more: Indigenous leaders to have private meeting with Pope during Vatican visit

Chartrand says the tone of his message to the Pope will be unique.

“The Metis have always been connected to the church,” he said.

“Going back several hundred years, if you look at the buffalo hunts, even the buffalo hunts started with the priest praying. Our affiliation with the church goes back several hundred years, and for us to be a part of it truly is a reflection of our continuation of our hope, that the church is not abandoning us.”

Chartrand will also ask the Pope to enhance the church’s presence in Metis communities.

“Citizens tell me quite loud and clear, they have great fear of shutting down churches in our villages now,” Chartrand said.

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“Our people are worried about that — what does the future look like if there’s no church? So I’m going to be raising this issue, this journey of hope with the Pope, and request that he put emphasis to the Archbishop, emphasis to himself to invest back to the churches here in Canada.”

Read more: Alberta Indigenous representatives prepare to meet the Pope this month in the Vatican

As a child, Chartrand attended a Catholic day school managed by nuns. He also says he may share some of his own stories of trauma and abuse with the Pope.

“They used to whip us (on our wrists) every time you spoke Saulteaux,” he said.

“They were trying to break us. They never did — I speak Saulteaux fluently today. She couldn’t break me.”

Chartrand says he hopes an apology will start the healing journey for many.

“There’s going to be significant impact if he comes and apologizes and you’ll see beginning of a healing process,” he said.

“Some will still be in such great pain, they won’t accept it. But I think from the Metis side, from the Red River, we will accept it and we will start healing.”

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