Hours after apologizing for the role members of the Catholic Church played in Canada’s residential school system, Pope Francis received a welcome greeting at the Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples in Edmonton on Monday, where he offered his own reflections on the meaning of reconciliation.
The Pope is undertaking what he is calling a “penitential pilgrimage” as part of an effort to acknowledge the wrongs done to Indigenous Peoples in Canada through the residential school system.
Earlier in the day, Pope Francis issued a public apology and asked for forgiveness during a stop at the former Ermineskin Indian Residential School in Maskwacis, Alta.
Addressing the parishioners of Sacred Heart, a Catholic parish that incorporates Indigenous rituals, Pope Francis commended them for their openness and inclusivity, as well as their charity work.
“It pains me to think that Catholics contributed to policies of assimilation and (dis)enfranchisement that inculcated a sense of inferiority, robbing communities and individuals of their cultural and spiritual identity, severing their roots, and fostering prejudicial and discriminatory attitudes, and that this was also done in the name of an educational system that was supposedly Christian,” Francis said, speaking in his first language Spanish.
Nearly 250 guests, many parishioners, were expected to be in attendance, with others travelling from communities across Alberta, Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories and Manitoba to represent their land.
The Edmonton church released the Pope’s itinerary beforehand, which included Indigenous cultural singing, prayer, a papal address and blessing of the statue of Algonquin-Mohawk Catholic saint Kateri Tekakwitha.
During his sermon, Pope Francis shared his thoughts on the word “reconciliation,” saying he “can only imagine the effort it must take for those who have suffered so greatly, because of men and women who should have set an example of Christian living.”
“If we want to be reconciled with one another and with ourselves, to be reconciled with the past, with wrongs endured and memories wounded with traumatic experiences that no human consolation could ever heal, our eyes must be lifted to the crucified Jesus,” he said.
“Peace must be attained at the altar of his cross, for it is precisely on the tree of the cross that sorrow is transformed into love, death into life, disappointment into hope, abandonment into fellowship, distance into unity. Reconciliation is not merely the result of our own efforts. It is a gift that flows from the crucified lord, a peace that radiates from the heart of Jesus, a grace that must be sought.”
Although its history goes as far back as the early 1900s, the church officially became Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples on Oct. 27, 1991.
The church underwent a redesign after an accidental fire damaged it in on Aug. 30, 2020.
During the redesign, the church added a teepee structure over the altar, with the four poles holding the teepee symbolizing the four stages of life in Catholicism, as well as Indigenous culture.
“It has allowed us to claim this building truly as something we can be proud of and that it truly is Indigenous. So now we can Indigenize the rest of the community, Indigenize the city and of course nationally across Canada and hopefully the world,” Sacred Heart council member Candida Shepherd told CTV News Edmonton on its reopening day last week.
If you are a former residential school survivor in distress, or have been affected by the residential school system and need help, you can contact the 24-hour Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419. Additional mental-health support and resources for Indigenous people are available here.
A year after the fall of Kabul, Canadian veterans urge Ottawa not to abandon Afghans trying to flee – CBC News
It’s been one year since Kabul fell to the Taliban after American and allied troops — including Canadians — left the country.
Video footage showed Afghans streaming onto the tarmac at the Kabul airport, desperate to escape, as a U.S. air force plane took off. Some fell to their death trying to hold on.
“We watched that terrible situation unfold … we saw that tremendous catastrophe that happened in Kabul,” said Brian Macdonald.
A Canadian veteran who served in Afghanistan, Macdonald leads the non-profit Aman Lara, which is Pashto for “Sheltered Path.” The collective of Canadian veterans and former interpreters has been working over the last year to bring refugees to safety in Canada.
“When we were unable to get them out a year ago, it was devastating. But since then we’ve come together, we’ve doubled down and been able to get 3,000 people out,” he said.
But it’s been a slow and dangerous process when those refugees need to go through the Taliban to get a passport.
“These people that have helped Canada now have to stand up and go to an office that’s controlled by the Taliban and give their name and address and the dates of birth of their children,” Macdonald said.
“It’s a very dangerous thing to do.”
There was hope this June, when Pakistan agreed to temporarily allow Afghan refugees approved to come to Canada across its border, without a passport or visa.
But Macdonald says they’ve hit roadblocks bringing those refugees to Canada.
“We were hoping it would be thousands, and it ended up being dozens,” he said.
“We’re dealing with the Afghan-Pakistani border, and it’s a very wild place. And so messages aren’t always clearly communicated, but we believe the window may still be open.”
Ottawa promises to speed up application process
A spokesperson for Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said Canada has added more employees on the ground to process applications as quickly as possible, including in Pakistan.
The department did not say how many undocumented Afghans have successfully made it to Canada through the arrangement with Pakistan.
Canada initially said it would bring 40,000 Afghan refugees to Canada — focusing on Afghans who were employed by the Canadian government and military. The federal government says that, to date, it has welcomed 17,300, with more still to arrive “in the coming weeks and months.”
“We remain steadfast in our collective resolve to bring vulnerable Afghans to safety in Canada as quickly as possible,” says a joint statement released Monday by Fraser, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly and International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan.
The statement does not indicate when Ottawa expects to reach its target of resettling 40,000 Afghans.
In the statement, the ministers lamented what they called the “steady deterioration” of human and democratic rights in Afghanistan since the Taliban seized power last year, citing the reintroduction of severe restrictions on the ability of women and girls to go to school and to move freely within the country.
‘We can hold our heads high,’ says deputy PM about evacuation
But the federal government has been criticized for not doing more to help Afghans who assisted Canada in the NATO-led effort and are now at risk of being killed by the Taliban for their ties to Western nations.
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said “we need to not think in the past tense” when asked if Canada could have done more a year ago.
“We can hold our heads up high when we think about our response compared to that of our allies. There is a lot more work to do,” Freeland said in Toronto on Thursday.
“We need to keep on working to bring more people from Afghanistan to Canada, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”
Last month, Canada stopped accepting new applications to its special immigration program, a move that advocates say amounts to the abandoning of Afghans desperate to come to this country.
Macdonald hopes the federal government reconsiders its approach and commits to welcoming every Afghan who helped the government into Canada.
“A year ago, we were panicking to get as many people out as possible,” Macdonald said.
“We all thought — as veterans and other interpreters — that that window had closed, that the people we didn’t get out were stuck in Afghanistan.
“But what we’ve learned over the last year is we can still move them out. It’s at a snail’s pace. It’s not as many people as we’d like. But we are still grinding away every day, moving people out of Afghanistan. And we’re just going to keep doing that until we get as many people out as we possibly can.”
Maritime veterans working to bring Afghans to Canada – CTV News Atlantic
John Monaghan’s connection to Afghanistan has withstood the 13 years since his tour there.
The Nova Scotia man and his family keep in constant contact — daily — with a man he met there, who worked with the Canadian military. A man he refers to as “Mr. Jones,” to keep his identity hidden from the Taliban.
The Monaghan’s have been lobbying and fundraising to bring Mr. Jones, his wife, his four older siblings and their large families to Nova Scotia.
But he says, at this point, one year after the Taliban takeover of Kabul, they’re still in limbo.
“You can tell that he’s worried, he’s definitely worried about everything that’s going on,” Monaghan said. “It’s just really frustrating. They need to move these people out of danger and here to Canada, to safety.”
Aman Lara — Pashto for “Sheltered Path” — is an organization that was born after the takeover a year ago, to try and bring as many Afghan interpreters to Canada as possible.
Its executive director is New Brunswicker Brian Macdonald, who also served in Afghanistan. Macdonald says it’s become an urgent passion project for many veterans across the country.
“A year ago, we saw those terrible scenes of people getting crushed trying to leave Kabul. At that time, we thought the window had closed, we weren’t going to be able to get any more people out. But in that year, we’ve doubled down, and we’ve now got 3,000 people out of Afghanistan,” he said.
He says they’ve been working with teams in many different locations, but the bureaucracy in several countries — including Canada — is high.
Their focus is on securing the safety of another 3,000 people, and believe the work will take years to complete.
“There’s some people on our team who still haven’t gotten their families out. We work with these interpreters very closely, they’re here in Canada but their families are still stuck in Afghanistan. So there’s a lot left to do for sure,” he said.
Macdonald believes there are about 8,000 people in Afghanistan right now, who’ve been approved to travel to Canada. But there are thousands more who are eligible, but have yet to be accepted.
“For the Government of Canada, we want them to extend the special immigration measures program, and that will allow us to get everyone that served Canada out of Afghanistan,” he said. “So we don’t think there should be a cap on that in terms of numbers, and we don’t think there should be a timeline on that. Let’s take as long as it takes to get everyone who helped Canada out of Afghanistan.”
On Monday’s difficult anniversary, Monaghan hopes Canadians take a moment to think about the people of Afghanistan.
“Mostly, I would like people to think about how comfortable and happy and safe they are and then in comparison think about the lives that these families are living in Kabul, in terror, where they are afraid for their lives.”
Public hearings in Emergencies Act inquiry to start in September
OTTAWA — The inquiry into Ottawa’s unprecedented use of the Emergencies Act during protests in February will start its public hearings next month.
The Public Order Emergency Commission announced today that it expects the hearings to run from Sept. 19 until Oct. 28 at Library and Archives Canada in downtown Ottawa.
Commissioner Paul Rouleau said in a statement that he intends to hold the government to account and wants the inquiry to be as “open and transparent” as possible.
Hearings will be livestreamed online and members of the public will have opportunities to share their views, with a final report expected early next year.
Parties to the inquiry including “Freedom Convoy” organizers, police forces and all three levels of government are expected to testify and contribute documentary evidence on the invocation of the act in February.
The federal Liberals made the move amid border blockades and the occupation of downtown Ottawa by protesters demonstrating against COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 15, 2022.
The Canadian Press
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