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Maskwacis to ‘Freedom Convoy’ protesters during Pope visit: ‘Your agendas do not have a place’

Click to play video: 'Papal visit is reopening old wounds for Ermineskin Residential School survivors' Papal visit is reopening old wounds for Ermineskin Residential School survivors
The visit from Pope Francis is emotional for residential school survivors — even those who aren't making any effort to see him. It's a conflicting time for some people who are triggered. As Sarah Komadina explains, some say they have relatives that will benefit, but may be left to deal with the repercussions of re-opened old wounds – Jul 22, 2022

Stay away, you are not welcome.

That’s the message leaders from Maskwacis have for members of the Freedom Convoy who may plan to protest during Pope Francis’ apology at the central Alberta First Nation community next week.

Pope Francis is set to travel to Alberta, Quebec and Nunavut from July 24 to 29. The papal visit is to include public and private events with an emphasis on Indigenous participation.

The visit will start in Edmonton before Francis joins survivors at the Ermineskin Indian Residential School in Maskwacis, south of the city.

Read more: Emotions run high ahead of Pope’s visit to Maskwacis

A joint statement issued Friday by the chiefs of Maskwacis said the event there on July 25 is for survivors of residential schools — not an opportunity to steal the stage.

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“On behalf of our community, we request that Freedom Convoy protestors planning to attend the apology to please stay home or find a place to protest that is not in our territory.

Click to play video: 'What the Pope’s visit means to residential school survivors' What the Pope’s visit means to residential school survivors
What the Pope’s visit means to residential school survivors – Jul 22, 2022

“The attempts from the Freedom Convoy demonstration to try to take over First Nations initiatives distracts from these important events. We ask for all protestors to respect our survivors. This is a time for truth, reconciliation and healing.

“Your agendas do not have a place at these events, and we wish that you respect our Territories, our community, and other First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples’ opportunity for healing.”

Read more: Convoy organizers discussed playing ‘race card’ with Lich’s Métis heritage

At the beginning of 2022, the protest against COVID-19 restrictions and the Liberal government swarmed downtown Ottawa with large trucks, blocking streets and blaring loud horns for more than three weeks.

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Protesters also blockaded multiple border crossings. It all prompted the federal government to invoke the Emergencies Act and the police to use force to clear the crowd.

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What’s being spent on the Pope Francis visit to Edmonton – Jul 22, 2022

A spokesperson for Alberta RCMP is aware of the possibility of convoy protesters showing up in Maskwacis next week and respect the right for peaceful protest. RCMP told Global News they’ll intervene if it turns unlawful.

Read more: Alberta seeing high demand for Pope Francis’ public events

Maskwacis said the community has not been contacted by protest organizers, “nor do we extend an invitation to host them on our lands.”

It’s expected Francis will deliver an apology for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in residential schools.

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An estimated 150,000 Indigenous children were forced to attend residential schools over a century, and the Roman Catholic Church ran about 60 per cent of the institutions.

The Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program has a hotline to help residential school survivors and their relatives suffering trauma invoked by the recall of past abuse.

The number is 1-866-925-4419.

— With files from The Canadian Press

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