Pope wraps up Canadian apology tour with Northern stop

Pope Francis' Iqaluit visit will be the farthest north a pope has traveled since Pope John Paul II visited Tromsø, Norway, in 1989.

By Rod Nickel, Reuters - July 29, 2022

IQALUIT — Pope Francis makes a brief visit to the Arctic territory of Nunavut on Friday, the last stop in his six-day visit to Canada to apologize to Indigenous people for abuse in government schools run by the Roman Catholic church.

Francis was to meet with Indigenous representatives from eastern Canada in Quebec City on Friday morning before flying to Iqaluit, Nunavut’s capital.

The city of 7,700 sits among rocky hills overlooking Frobisher Bay, covered in ground-hugging purple flowers and the rare tree. Iqaluit, reachable only by plane or ship, is located too far north for trees to consistently grow.

It is the farthest north a pope has traveled since Pope John Paul II visited Tromsø, Norway, in 1989.

In Nunavut, an Arctic territory of Canada that was created in 1999 for the Inuit people, the Pope will meet privately with residential school survivors in an elementary school during a 2-1/2-hour stop.

Tanya Tungilik, whose late father Marius Tungilik has said he was abused by Roman Catholic priests, hopes to ask Francis to help bring to justice clergy members who abused children, along with those who hid their crimes.

“I want to tell him the full effects of what his church has done to my father and to my family,” Tungilik said.

More than 150,000 Indigenous children were separated from their families and brought to residential schools, which operated between 1870 and 1996.

Catholic religious orders ran most of the schools under successive Canadian governments’ policy of assimilation.

The children were beaten for speaking their native languages and many sexually abused in a system Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission called “cultural genocide.”

After meeting with school survivors, Francis will watch a public program featuring Inuit traditions such as throat singing and drum dancing, and deliver his last formal remarks on the trip.

Francis is scheduled to leave Canada for Rome at 6:15 p.m. Eastern time.

The pope on Monday traveled to the Alberta town of Maskwacis, the site of two former schools, and issued a historic apology that called the Church’s role in the schools, and the forced cultural assimilation they attempted, a “deplorable evil” and “disastrous error.”

His pleas for forgiveness evoked strong emotions for many but fell short of what some survivors and Indigenous leaders hoped for. Since then, however, the pope has built on the apology, refering to both institutional failures and sexual abuse in subsequent speeches — addressing some of the grievances raised by survivors.

Tungilik and others specifically want the Pope to pressure France to extradite retired priest Johannes Rivoire, who faces a Canadian charge of sexually assaulting a young girl in the 1970s, and allegedly others, including Marius Tungilik.

Canada’s Justice Department confirmed this week that it has asked France to extradite Rivoire. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office has said that he discussed the Rivoire case with the pope during his private meeting on Wednesday.

In Iqaluit, the environment-minded Francis will visit a region that is a focal point of climate change, with sea ice retreating and altering fishing and hunting practices, and permafrost thawing.

Additional reporting by Philip Pullella and Steve Scherer.