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‘Egregious oversight’: BCAFN urges Pope Francis to visit Kamloops

Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc is not on the Pope’s itinerary
Pope Francis 05312021
Pope Francis will visit Canada this summer. (Filippo Monteforte | AFP a Través de Getty Images)

The B.C. Assembly of First Nations is calling for Pope Francis to revise his plans during his visit to Canada this summer as Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc is not on his itinerary.

Tk’emlúps territory, includes Kamloops Indian Residential school which was the site of the first recovery of the unmarked graves at a Canadian residential school.

The Vatican said Friday that the pontiff is to stop in Alberta, Quebec and Nunavut, and that the capital cities of Edmonton, Quebec City and Iqaluit are to act as bases for the July 24 to July 29 trip.

"This egregious oversight must be rectified immediately," said Regional Chief Terry Teegee.

"Kupki7 Rosanne Casimir made the voyage to the Vatican with a full delegation of Chiefs from across Canada. The Pope must show reciprocal respect to Kupki7 Casimir and Tk’emlúps."

Representatives from First Nations, Inuit, and Metis communities travelled to Rome earlier this year for an audience with Pope Francis following the recovery of 215 unmarked graves on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.

BCAFN says the trip carried a great deal of emotional energy, considering the Catholic Church's responsibility for the crimes against Indigenous children over the 100 plus years that they ran residential schools across the country.

"My meeting with Pope Francis was respectful," said Kupki7 Casimir, Chief of the Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc and BCAFN Board Member.

"His apology was a good starting place for the Church to acknowledge the horrific damage they have committed to First Nations people. But he needs to show good faith on this visit by paying his respects to the Indigenous children buried on the Kamloops Indian Residential School grounds where his church operated."

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops said the Vatican selected the three cities based on the length of the trip, the vast size of Canada and the health of the 85-year-old pontiff.

Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton, general coordinator of the trip for the conference, said the Pope is limited in how he can travel. He can no longer ride in helicopters and can't be in a vehicle for more than an hour. He must also rest between events.

An estimated 150,000 Indigenous children were forced to attend residential schools in Canada and more than 60 per cent of the schools were run by the Catholic Church.

The BC Assembly of First Nations says it will continue to press for a revision to the Pope's itinerary and hope that Catholic leadership sees the wisdom of including Tk’emlúps in this important visit.

- with files from the Canadian Press