Stay away, you are not welcome.
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.
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.
“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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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