A Canadian Inuit group is sending delegates to a Vatican meeting

The delegation will ask for an apology from the Pope for the Catholic church’s role in residential schools in Canada.

By David Lochead, Nunatsiaq News - December 9, 2021
ITK President Natan Obed is seen speaking at Nunavut Arctic College in Iqaluit over the summer. ITK is part of an Indigenous delegation that will meet with the Pope to discuss the Catholic church’s involvement in Canada’s residential schools. The visit has been delayed because of concerns over the Omicron variant of COVID-19. (Nunatsiaq News file photo)

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami plans to send seven delegates on a now-delayed visit to see the Pope at the Vatican.

Among those delegates will be ITK president Natan Obed. The delay was caused by the Omicron variant of COVID-19, but it will not change the number of delegates or who they are, ITK spokesperson Patricia D’Souza said to Nunatsiaq News in an email.

Other than Obed, the remaining delegates will not announced yet, as they prefer not to do interviews, D’Souza added.

ITK is part an Indigenous delegation to meet the Pope at the Vatican that includes the Assembly of First Nations and the Métis National Council. The delegation will ask for an apology from the Pope for the Catholic church’s role in residential schools in Canada.

The meeting was supposed to occur this month but has been delayed until next year because of the concerns that elders from remote communities could be exposed to the Omicron variant of COVID-19, according to a statement from the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, which is joining the delegation.

Once more scientific information is gained about the new variant, the visit will be rescheduled.

“ITK stands with our partners in putting the health of Indigenous peoples and communities first and choosing to reschedule this historic visit to a date to be determined in early 2022,” ITK said on social media.

The Indigenous delegation will include elders, knowledge holders and residential school survivors.

As well, the delegation will ask the Pope to release any records of residential schools and Indigenous artifacts held by the church.

Around 60 percent of residential schools in Canada were run by the Catholic church.

Since the beginning of the summer, over 1,200 unmarked graves have been found at former residential schools. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission report estimated there are over 3,200 unmarked graves, but Murray Sinclair, the commission’s chair, said that number is likely much higher.

Former Nunavut MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. President Aluki Kotierk have called for charges to be revived against French Oblate priest Johannes Rivoire.

Rivoire worked in Canada’s eastern Arctic in the 1960s and was accused of sexually assaulting Inuit children. Currently, Rivoire is said to reside in France. The Public Prosecution Service of Canada stayed charges against Rivoire four years ago, saying there was “no longer a reasonable prospect of conviction.”