Pope skipping Kamloops a 'missed opportunity,' Casimir says

Pope's plans 'unfortunate'

Sydney Chisholm

It will be a “missed opportunity” for Pope Francis to come to Canada and not visit Kamloops, according to T’kemlups Chief Rosanne Casimir.

On Friday, the Vatican announced the Pope would be making his way to Canada in July, but his itinerary does not include a stop in B.C.

Casimir said while she is appreciative of the Pope's decision to come to Canada, she is disappointed he won’t be visiting Tk'emlúps te Secwepemc.

“While we understand the vastness of Canada and the need to make the trip to Canada manageable for him, it is really unfortunate that he will not have the opportunity to come to the former Kamloops Indian Residential School,” Casimir said.

“This, I do see as a missed opportunity to come to Tk'emlúps ground zero, and hear directly from the survivors, the intergenerational survivors and offer more words of apology, retribution, and reconciliation.”

She said the Tk'emlúps generations of survivors and intergenerational survivors need more from the Pope.

“They [survivors] need to witness it true, meaningful apology from the highest level from the pope himself,” Casimir said.

“My hope is for justice and reconciliation, so that First Nations across Canada can find a way to work with the Catholic Church, so that we can truly walk on the healing path together for our children, and future generations.”

The Kamloops Indian Residential School was the site of a discovery last year of more than 200 potential unmarked graves. The announcement of the discovery set off a national conversation on reconciliation that is still ongoing.

Casimir was part of a First Nations delegation that visited the Vatican in March. At the meeting, she personally invited the pontiff to visit Tk'emlups.

Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Frank Caputo has also called on the Pope to visit the community.

Edmonton, Quebec City and Iqaluit will act as bases for the trip from July 24 to July 29.

The visit comes after the Pope's historic apology last month for the Roman Catholic Church's role in residential schools in Canada.

On April 1, after meetings over several days with First Nations, Inuit and Métis groups at the Vatican, Pope Francis apologized for the deplorable conduct of church members involved in residential schools.

“I want to say to you with all my heart: I am very sorry,'' Francis said in Italian before a room of nearly 200 Indigenous delegates. “And I join my brothers, the Canadian bishops, in asking your pardon.''

The visit would make Francis the second pope to come to Canada.

In 1984, Pope John Paul II spent 12 days touring the country, touching down in Quebec City and travelling through most of the provinces before heading to Yellowknife. Three years later, he stopped for one day in Fort Simpson, N.W.T. He returned in 2002 for World Youth Day in Toronto.

The Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program has a hotline to help residential school survivors and their relatives suffering trauma invoked by the recall of past abuse. The number is 1-866-925-4419.

— with files from The Canadian Press

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