The Assembly of First Nations held a pre-Vatican trip news conference Thursday to discuss the issues that will be on hand when its delegation touches down in Rome.
High on the agenda is a request for the Pope to visit Canada and make a formal apology for the Catholic Church’s role in the residential school system.
Northwest Territories Regional Chief Gerald Antoine said when this trip to Canada or an apology will happen remains unknown.
“Certainly, our people have endured a lot of things,” he said. “And they have a sense of hope, they’re optimistic about how things will unfold in a good way. And this is one of the things that we are very hopeful that he would come to visit us.”
A delegation was supposed to travel to Vatican City in December but was cancelled because of the pandemic and an outbreak of the Omicron strain.
Antoine said this time, there are other issues added to the agenda.
“Immediate actions include returning the land properties back to First Nations on whose traditional lands they are situated,” he said. “Investment into long-term healing initiatives beyond the recent commitment of $30 million announced Sept. 27, 2021, to ensure support programs and services for survivors and their descendants.”
He also said delegates plan to ask the Catholic Church to formally renounce the doctrine of discovery, an international law that gave explorers exclusive rights to claim any “vacant” lands not held by “Christians.”
A total of 32 delegates will be making the trip including those from the Métis National Council and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.
The AFN is sending a total of 13 delegates.
Names on the list include former Truth and Reconciliation Commission commissioner Wilton Littlechild, former AFN national chief Phil Fontaine, Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation Kukpi7 Chief Rosanne Casimir and Okanese First Nation Chief Marie-Anne Day Walker-Pelletier for Saskatchewan.
The AFN is also sending two youth delegates.
One of them is from northern British Columbia. APTN’s Charlotte Morritt-Jacobs brings us to Fort Nelson, B.C. to bring us that story.
Métis and Inuit delegates will have their own private meetings with Pope Francis on Mar. 28.
This will be followed by First Nations delegates who will have a private meeting on Mar. 31.
The delegation as a whole will then have a final audience with the Pope on Apr. 1 where they will be joined by a larger group of Indigenous peoples from across the country.
Each delegation will have one hour with Francis.
APTN’s Tina House is travelling with the delegations to Rome and will have stories daily on how the trip is going.
Editor’s Note: The story originally said that the Manitoba Métis Federation was sending delegates to Rome to meet with Pope Francis. That was an error.