The Pope lands in Edmonton to begin a six-day “repentance” journey aimed at reconciliation among the Aboriginal people

Pope Francis arrived in Canada on Sunday to attend an honorary drum song, ahead of what he called a “punitive” trip aimed at promoting reconciliation with indigenous peoples over the lasting damage done to boarding schools.

Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation’s drum band sang in front of Francis as he sat between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Governor General Mary Simon in an airport hangar at Edmonton International Airport.

The Pope told reporters on the plane before it landed in Edmonton that the six-day visit should be treated with caution.

The Pope is also scheduled to travel to Quebec City and Iqaluit.

“I hope, thank God, that the pilgrimage of penance will contribute to the journey of reconciliation that has already taken place. I hope you will accompany me in prayer,” a message on the Pope’s Twitter account read.

An elevator was used to get the Pope out of the plane, and he went for a short ride in a Fiat to the hangar. He was then climbed into a wheelchair and taken to a red carpet for the official welcome party.

The Grand Master of the Sixth Treaty Georges Arcand Jr. gave the Pope an embroidered medal and received in return an unknown item.

“I hope this visit will be the beginning of a change in history, a change in the way business will be done, and a way for us to begin the journey of recovery,” Arcand Jr. told CBC News after the arrival ceremony.

“And most importantly, I asked the Pope to walk with us and create this new path that must be created.”

Francis kissed the hand of a residential school survivor Alma Degarlay of the First Frog Lake Nation when she welcomed the pope along with Grand Leader Greg Degarlay of the Sixth Treaty First Nations Confederation.

Francis was also welcomed by other church, indigenous and political figures.

Pope Francis is then scheduled to be driven to St. Joseph’s School, where he will stay during part of the trip in Alberta.

Watch | Indigenous rights advocates hope “not just another apology”:

What a boarding school apology from the Pope in Canada could mean for reconciliation

Pope Francis will arrive in Canada and some survivors are hoping for an apology for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in abuses at boarding schools. From resources for healing to returning Aboriginal artifacts, First Nations, Métis, and Inuit leaders explain what it means to visit and apologize for reconciliation.

Pope plans to visit the former Ermineskin Indian Residential School in the community of Maskwacis, south Edmonton, on Monday. This is where Francis is due to make his first public statement in Canada and is expected to apologize to Aboriginal peoples for the abuses they have suffered.

An estimated 150,000 Aboriginal children have been forced to attend boarding schools in Canada, where neglect and physical and sexual abuse are rampant. The Roman Catholic Church ran over 60 percent of the schools.

On Sunday, senior leader Degarlaes said his thoughts were with those who did not come home from boarding schools – and with those who survived.

Desjarlais said he was optimistic about the apology, but the fact remains that generations of Aboriginal people in Canada have been shocked, he said.

“Now I hope the world will see why our people have been so hurt,” he told reporters.

“When you admit something wrong, that’s when reconciliation can begin.”

Vicki Arcand, an Alexander Nation senior and boarding school survivor, said she feels the pope’s visit has been long overdue. But she hopes this will encourage people to start thinking differently and trying to deal with their past traumas.

“Can [the Pope’s visit] It is something that should have happened many years ago. Perhaps the beginning of reconciliation had begun after that.”

“This is an important historical moment”

Arcand Jr. said last week that survivors are suffering from unimaginable trauma for many generations. He said the Pope’s acknowledgment of their pain was a crucial step.

“This is an important historical moment for survivors of the residential school system and the damage caused by the Catholic Church,” said Arcand Jr.

Roseanne Archibald, national president of the Assembly of First Nations, said she looks forward to the apology but feels the focus on survivors was lost while organizing the pope’s visit.

Pope Francis greets Arcand, left, and others during a welcome ceremony at the airport hangar in Edmonton on Sunday. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

“[The church] We were not included in the proper planning of this trip. Archibald said, referring, for example, to the church’s attempt to raise funds through tickets for this week’s Mass.

“We have to refocus on what we’re really doing here – and that’s about the survivors… listening to this apology from the Pope.”

On April 1, after several days of meetings with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis groups at the Vatican, Francis apologized for the unfortunate behavior of some church members participating in boarding schools and promised to visit Canada.

Indigenous delegates had told the Pope that they wanted an apology on Canadian soil.

Alberta First Nations leaders have said they expect the pope’s presence will open old wounds for indigenous people and that mental health counselors will be on site. But they also hope the visit will be a step toward reconciliation.

Watch | What an apology from the Pope in Canada could mean for reconciliation:

As Pope lands in Canada, Aboriginal rights advocates hope ‘not just another apology’

Pope Francis has arrived in Edmonton to begin a six-day tour of Canada aimed at reconciliation with the indigenous population. Indigenous rights advocate and writer Riley Yesno hopes people will bear in mind the widespread sentiments of residential school survivors during the pope’s visit.

“We are here with you and supporting you,” Desmond Ball, chief of the Louis Ball tribe, told survivors last week.

Archibald said she hopes there will be enough mental health support for people listening to the pope’s expected apology because it will elicit so much pain and emotion — in a day, as well as in the future.

The Ermineskin School located south of Edmonton was one of the largest educational institutions in Canada. Organizers of the papal visit said they expected about 15,000 people to be in Masquasis to see the 85-year-old pope.

Later Monday, Francis is scheduled to meet parishioners of an inner-city church in Edmonton. A large outdoor mass is scheduled for the city’s soccer stadium on Tuesday. The Pope then heads to nearby Lake St. Ann to perform the annual Hajj.

On Wednesday, Francis is scheduled to travel to Quebec City and give a public address after meetings with Trudeau and Simone. The next day, another great mass was scheduled in Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré.

The visit is scheduled to end Friday in Iqaluit before Francis returns to the Vatican.

Organizers said that due to the pope’s age and physical limitations, he will participate in public events for about an hour and will use a wheelchair throughout the tour.

Shortly after leaving Rome, the Pope used a cane to help him move around the plane while greeting individual reporters.

“I think I can do that,” he joked.

Thousands traveled from different parts of the country to participate in the events.

Mabel Brown, a 77-year-old residential school survivor, traveled to Edmonton from Inuvik to hear the Pope’s apology and find forgiveness and healing with other survivors. She hopes it will be an opportunity to move forward in a good way.

“This is a very important time in history,” she said. “Better things are yet to come.”


Support is available to anyone affected by the ongoing effects of boarding schools and those who are triggered by the latest reports. The Residential Indian Schools Survivors Association can be contacted free of charge at 1-800-721-0066.

The National Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line has been set up to provide support to former and affected students. Get emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour National Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419.

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