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Trudeau government says Pope's statement on residential schools not good enough

Last Updated Jun 7, 2021 at 12:12 pm PDT

FILE - A Canada flag is pictured with the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, April 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Spokesperson for Crown Indigenous Relations Minister says statement from Pope Francis doesn't go far enough

Toronto archbishop said he felt Trudeau's calls for Catholic Church to 'step up' were 'unhelpful,' 'not based on facts'

NDP wants more resources to search for unmarked graves, following discovery of 215 remains in Kamloops

OTTAWA (NEWS 1130) – The Canadian government is not satisfied with recent comments from the Pope on residential schools.

“Residential school survivors and those dealing with it need to hear the Pope apologize, explicitly for the Catholic Church’s role in this tragedy to unlock the healing and support closure,” Crown Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett said Monday.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Bennett’s office says the comments from Pope Francis over the weekend does not go far enough and they continue to believe a direct apology from the Pope is an important step in acknowledging the past and moving toward reconciliation.

On Sunday, Pope Francis expressed sorrow over the discovery of the remains of 215 children at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, saying he feels a “closeness to the Canadian people.”

He failed to offer an apology, which frustrates Chief Bobby Cameron with the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations in Saskatechewan.

“Whether it’s a 40-second apology or a 215-second apology, it’s part of the healing journey,” he said.

On Sunday, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Toronto said he felt Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s calls for the Catholic Church to “step up” and take responsibility for its role in residential schools were “unhelpful and “not based on real facts.”

The Prime Minister’s Office says it stands by comments made last week, saying the Pope needs to apologize and the church needs to release all records or possibly face court action.

Green Party Leader Annamie Paul is not happy the Vatican has not yet formally apologized.

“It’s very important for healing and for reconciliation. Of course, they should do it. It’s disappointing that they haven’t,” Paul said.

This weekend, the Pope expressed sorrow but offered no apology.

Meanwhile, the Trudeau government is being pressured by the federal NDP to take quicker action on reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. This comes as the feds get pushback from the Catholic Church over demands to release records on residential schools and after were found at a former residential school in Kamloops.

The NDP’s motion, which should come to a vote Monday, demands quick action to help Indigenous peoples. In particular, Leader Jagmeet Singh wants fast implementation of outstanding Truth and Reconciliation recommendations, ending court cases around compensation for Indigenous children in the child welfare system and residential school survivors, and more resources to search for unmarked graves.

“We are hopeful that we can actually do something really meaningful … to fight for justice for Indigenous people. This is just a start. This, by no means, is a finish,” Singh said.

He says Trudeau needs to back his words up with action.

“We need more than a prime minister who wants to lower the flags at half mast or to take a knee at a memorial. We need action,” Singh said.

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Meanwhile, the hashtag #CancelCanadaDay was trending on Twitter Monday, with some Indigenous people calling for an end to the celebrations, saying there is no pride in genocide.