FSIN calls for papal visit to Sask. residential school graves

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) is calling for Saskatchewan to be included in the July papal visit.

According to a release, FSIN is pressing the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) to make arrangements for the Pope to visit one of Saskatchewan’s Indian residential school gravesites.

In a release, FSIN suggested the Muskowekwan Indian Residential School, where the school still stands and 35 graves were discovered in 2021.

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“The Pope owes every survivor, family, and community affected by the Catholic-operated Indian Residential Schools an apology on our own Treaty territory,” said FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron in a media release. “There are over 100,000 Indian Residential School Survivors and intergenerational survivors in Saskatchewan, many are the victims and survivors of the Roman Catholic Church and there are also many survivors who continue to be members of the Catholic faith.”

According to the release, Saskatchewan had one of the highest numbers of residential schools in the country, with 22 schools that housed tens of thousands of First Nations children. At least half of the 22 were run by the Catholic Church, which severely sexually, physically and mentally abused the victims that were forced to attend.

“The Pope needs to visit one of our First Nations in Saskatchewan to witness for himself the reality we are facing today and the work our First Nations are conducting in finding the unmarked graves of hundreds of our children,” said Cameron. “Pope Francis and the Church must bear witness to the devastation brought on by the Church in our Treaty territory.”

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An Indigenous delegation travelled to Rome at the end of March to have conversations with the Pope about the harms caused by residential schools run under the Catholic Church system. The visit also included encouraging Pope Francis to travel to Canada and issue a formal apology for the Catholic Church’s role in residential schools.

The Saskatchewan delegate who represented residential school survivors in the province attended and spoke with the Pope with hopes of him visiting a residential school site in the province.

“During my visit with Pope Francis at the Vatican in Rome, I presented him with baby moccasins and in return asked for a promise for him to return them to the steps of an Indian Residential School in our region to show good faith in his apology and to acknowledge the harms committed by the Church,” said retired Okanese First Nation chief Marie-Anne Daywalker-Pelletier.

“Our First Nations communities are still suffering greatly from the intergenerational traumas created by the harms committed within the walls of these schools. We welcome Pope Francis to walk within the same walls of the institutions that committed genocide against us through the theft and abuses of our children. The front steps of the Muskowekwan Indian Residential School would (be) an ideal location for Pope Francis to place those baby moccasins in memory of our children that will never return home and for the ones who came home changed forever.”

The date of the Pope’s visit isn’t confirmed yet but is expected to occur this summer.

The Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line (1-866-925-4419) is available 24 hours a day for anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of their residential school experience.


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