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Chief of Wahta Mohawks hopes better “action plan” is put in place following Pope’s apology

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Chief Philip Franks of Wahta Mohawks appreciated the “sincere apology” from Pope Francis, but wishes a better “action plan” was given.

“The Pope acknowledged that, for his part, he will continue to encourage the efforts of all Catholics to support Indigenous People, but rather sooner than later it would have been encouraging to have a plan or method,” Franks writes in a letter posted to social media.

Pope Francis delivered a speech Monday in Maskwacis, Alberta on the site of one of Canada’s largest residential schools. He asked for forgiveness for what he called the evil committed by so many Christians against Indigenous Peoples. It was the first time the Pope has issued a public apology for the Catholic Church’s role in the Canadian residential school system.

The Pope is in Canada for a six-day visit, which will include stops in Quebec City and Iqaluit. 

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“The Pope’s apology to Indigenous People was impressive and spoke of asking for forgiveness as the first step on a journey of remorse for the wrongdoings that occurred to thousands of children in the Indian Residential Schools under the watch of his church,” writes Franks. “It was a well-delivered address and offered a desire to move forward on a healing journey. It was an expected statement but what was not said could have made the apology a much more appealing plea. As the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, he could have arrived with more of an action plan given he has been aware of the atrocities for a long time.”

Franks says while he believes the apology was sincere, he hopes people will continue to remember the children that were lost as well as the survivors who continue to “heal from the multigenerational efforts of the past.”

“Pope Francis expressed his sorrow for the ways in which Christians supported the colonizing mentality of the powers that oppressed Indigenous People and added that Christian clarity was not absent in many cases,” Franks continues. “The Pope spoke of the pain that relives itself when we speak about the residential schools, he mentioned the physical, verbal, psychological, and spiritual abuse. In my opinion, more weight was given to the government policies of assimilation than to the actual abuses including the sexual abuse of children.”

Franks says “time will tell” what comes of the Pope’s speech. “We will hopefully see the Vatican release all the records they hold, that zero tolerance for ongoing sexual abuse will be publically known and perpetrators will be held accountable, that resources will be made to address support and reparations to those affected, that the Pope will advocate for Indigenous People everywhere against governments that still maintain the theory of discovery to hold people back from what is rightfully theirs,” says Franks. “Those would be good starting points.”

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