Kahnawá:ke resident Arnold Boyer says he’s less emotional now than he was a week ago, and less angry.
“You can’t hold it inside you forever, you know. It’s going to kill you,” he told Global News sitting outside his office at the Mohawk Council of Kahnawá:ke on Montreal’s South Shore.
The council chief brought his parents, both residential school survivors, to see Pope Francis hold mass at the Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré shrine near Quebec City on Thursday to hear an apology.
“And that’s what they received, and they were happy,” he said.
On top of that, his parents were among the 22 survivors who had a private meeting with the pontiff the following morning, at which the Pope again expressed regret for the atrocities that staff at Catholic-run residential schools, committed against Indigenous Peoples.
Boyer said even though the head of the Roman Catholic Church spoke Spanish when he met his mom and dad, they understood each other when the three held hands.
“A touch, and to look at a person in their eyes, you know, it says a lot of things that words cannot say to a person,” Boyer said.
The Pope’s visit and apology have not brought closure to everyone. Boyer acknowledges that and says healing is complicated.
“It’s up to the individual if they want to forgive and forget,” he said. “You can’t force an apology upon a person.”
He said that the Pope’s visit, though historic, is just a first step.
Chadwick Cowie of the Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg Nation, who is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Toronto, also said there’s much left to do.
For one, he believes the Catholic church should release all residential school records.
“That’s important to be able to rebuild. It’s important to be able to go against what this genocide was causing and to rectify the damage that has been done,” he said.
Cowie said that more governments need to acknowledge their role in colonization, pointing to Quebec’s strengthened language legislation, Bill 96, and to what premier François Legault said about multiculturalism during Pope Francis’ visit.
“It’s important that we put cultures together but we also have to respect the values of the main culture,” the premier told reporters.
“What some Quebecers need to remember is that their culture, their language are colonial for Indigenous nations,” Cowie explained.
Boyer said the road ahead won’t be easy, but is necessary.