Saskatchewan residential school survivors respond to Angus Reid study on Pope apology

Sask. residential survivors react to a recent Angus Reid study that shows 59% say the Pope apology to residential school survivors was a step towards reconciliation. Jeanelle Mandes / Global Regina

An Angus Reid Institute study shows 59 per cent of Indigenous respondents say the Pope’s recent apology for the Catholic Church’s role in residential schools was a step towards reconciliation.

Marieval residential school survivor Marie-Anne Day Walker-Pelletier agrees with that as well.

“Reconciliation always begins with yourself and moves into family, community (and) nationhood,” she said. “Certainly each one of us in different ways accept that apology. It’s a driving force in order to make our future better.”

Day Walker-Pelletier first heard the apology from the Pope on April 1, 2022, when she went to Rome with the Indigenous delegation across Turtle Island. But hearing the apology in person on Canadian soil on July 25th in Maskwacis, Alta., Day Walker-Pelletier said it an emotional moment.

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“When I heard him (apologize), I looked around at all of our survivors … with tears and, (they) had their heads down and they were grasping of what he just said,” said Day Walker-Pelletier.

“I felt that the survivors heard and that they embraced the apology. I was glad and I was happy that he did it and I was happy for the survivors.”

However, many others don’t share the same perspectives as Day Walker-Pelletier. Bevann Fox, a residential school survivor who attended the Lebret Industrial School, did not attend the papal visit in Edmonton.

Fox, who endured unthinkable abuses as child in the residential school, said an apology isn’t enough.

“To me, forgiveness is a whole process and doesn’t happen overnight,” said Fox. “His apology (was) somewhat sincere … (a) person can say ‘sorry’ but I think if there was more mention of the children who died at the residential schools (who) didn’t make it home.”

According to the study, 32 per cent feel the apology did nothing to move reconciliation forward. Fox agrees with that percentage. She said more needs to be done besides an apology.

“There needs to be more action shown. What does that reconciliation look like?” said Fox. “What (are) the next steps? Is it going to take years again? Am I going to see this in my lifetime or is it all talk?”

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Results from the study showed that 64 per cent of those who paid attention to the visit say the Pope was sincere in his lamentation of the “evil” perpetrated by some members of the church during this period and 24 per cent of Canadians disagreed that the apology was genuine.

When it comes to who bears the most responsibility for the residential school system, the Angus Reid study shows that 52 per cent of Canadians blame the federal government, Christian churches, and society at the time equally for creating it and allowing it to persist.

Also the study shows that women are significantly more likely than men to say that further investigation into the history of residential schools must be undertaken. The full study results can be viewed on the Angus Reid Institute website.

If you or someone you know is a residential school survivor and is looking for help, you can call the Residential School Survivors and Family Crisis Line at 1-800-721-0066.

Click to play video: 'Pope’s apology echoes across Saskatchewan'
Pope’s apology echoes across Saskatchewan

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