Indigenous groups looking for more than an apology during Pope's visit
Just months after Pope Francis apologized and asked forgiveness of Indigenous people in Canada for the "deplorable conduct" of members of the Catholic Church at residential schools, the Pope will be in Canada to continue reconciliation.
Cree Grand Chief Mandy Gull-Masty is expecting to hear another apology when the Pope visits Quebec.
"I feel that Indigenous Nations are open to hearing whatever statements the Pope makes, but I do hope for him that he is successful in identifying an apology," she said. "I believe that's something many residential school survivors want to hear as part of his visit."
Apologizing on Canadian soil was one of the calls to action laid out by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) - a federal inquiry into the residential school system.
Gull-Masty said while the trip is monumental, reconciliation doesn't stop at an apology.
"[The church needs to start] Looking at lands that have been owned by the Catholic Church to see if they will be returned to communities, looking at different elements of what it would mean uncovering graves on school sites," said Gull-Masty.
She would also like the church to disclose documentation on who was running the residential schools and the names of students that never returned home.
"Communities wish to make a decision if they want those members returned back to their traditional territory," she said.
On Thursday, a delegation of 10 people is expected to start a 275-kilometre healing walk from the Ponte-Bleue residential school to the provincial capital.
"It's to offer an opportunity to people in the community to gather around the former residential school survivors," said organizer Jay Launiere-Mathias. "It's really important for us to make them know that we are there for them."
Supporters and allies can join the walkers for the last 15 kilometres from Wendake to the Plains of Abraham.
"Reconciliation is not the end; it's a process," said Launiere-Mathias. "So what we want to offer with the walk it's an opportunity for people, Indigenous people, allies, to gather together."
About 16,000 Indigenous and non-Indigenous people are expected to gather at the Plains of Abraham to watch the Pope's address next week.