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Pope Francis’ apology doesn’t rescind the Doctrine of Discovery

Emotions ran heavy as Pope Francis begs for forgiveness for the Catholic church’s role in the genocide of the Indigenous people of Canada.
mamakwa neskantaga
Kiiwetinoong MPP Sol Mamakwa (Screen capture)

THUNDER BAY – Although Pope Francis’ apology is an important step toward reconciling the unmeasurable number of human rights violations caused by the Catholic church over the past century, the truth was far from acknowledged by his holiness.

For NDP Deputy Leader Sol Mamakwa, Pope Francis weighed heavily on the crowd.  

“I think when we heard the begging for forgiveness and the words, “I’m sorry” I could feel the place around me, the people around me with heaviness. It was pretty heavy. I could see people holding each other and crying. That was hard to see,” Mamakwa said with an entrant of weight on his shoulders.

Much like the people around him, Mamakwa, who went to a Residential Indian Day School, found it hard to weave through the heaviness of history as the highest official of the Roman Catholic Church begs for forgiveness for their role in the genocide of numerous cultures across Turtle Island.

Still, the weight of history is held by the words of the colonizer, while healing and a path to true reconciliation should be lifted by action.

Before Mamakwa landed in Edmonton, the Elders of the Kiiwetinoog riding, as well as Elders of Treaty Three tasked Mamakwa with delivering a birch bark scroll signifying the Doctrine of Discovery, a long-standing document which has been woven into the legal and moral justification that settlers “discovered” the new world; therefore, were allowed to colonize of Turtle Island, which is now known as Canada.

During the spectacle of press and politicians all looking for an opportunity to share their dialogue with his holiness, Mamakwa wasn’t allowed to share his words with Pope Francis and begin the true reason why the survivors of Canada’s colonial genocide are asking for the Pope’s apology.

“It is asking, [the scroll], to rescind the Doctrine of Discovery. If there is no acknowledgment of the Doctrine of Discovery, that will state that there is no interest or meaning in the apology itself and that path to reconciliation is not excitant,” acknowledge Mamakwa.  

The Indian Residential School Survivors of Wauzhushk Onigum Nation wanted Pope Francis to further acknowledge the role “The Doctrine of Discovery” played in the genocide of the Indigenous People across Turtle Island.  

Like Mamakwa, Wauzhushk Onigum Nation stated that they do support those asking for an apology with complete respect and understanding that the healing process starts with a declaration of wrongdoing, however, the apology is meaningless without the action to set things right.

“An apology right now is not relevant to us; we’re looking for action.”, said Eleanor Skead, a Survivor of the St. Mary’s Indian Residential School and facilitator of the Kaatagoging Survivors group.

The Kaatagoging Survivors Group acknowledges that Turtle Island was not “discovered” by settlers in the fifteenth century as an uninhibited land to claim, but instead, Turtle Island had a flourishing multi-culture group of societies.

For the most powerful person in the Roman Catholic Church to formally rescind the Doctrine of Discovery, real truth and reconciliation can begin.  

“Our Survivors need to be supported. It is a sacred journey they are undertaking. We urge all levels of government and all orders of the Church and its representatives to step up and do what is 2 right. Go beyond the apology, well beyond the apology.”, said Chief Chris Skead, Chief of Wauzhushk Onigum.

Therefore, without an acknowledgement and dedication to set the precedence of the legal and moral justification in this belief that settlers are the rightful owners of this land, the healing process over the actions of governments and religious authorities will not provide the support necessary for those who survived the cultural and social genocide of Turtle Island First People.  

Clint Fleury

About the Author: Clint Fleury

Clint Fleury is a web reporter covering Northwestern Ontario and the Superior North regions.
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