[member spoke in Inuktitut]
I appreciate the opportunity to speak to this motion on behalf of Nunavummiut and all survivors.
I would like to thank the member for Timmins—James Bay for bringing this motion to the House. I would also like to thank the New Democratic Party for sharing time with me and allowing me to have an opportunity to speak.
I can say, without a single shred of doubt, that a papal apology for the church's role in the implementation of, and its participation in, the Canadian residential school system is completely justified, and frankly, an apology is the very least the Pope could do for the indigenous people of this country.
As a result of residential schools, a generation of indigenous children were robbed of their childhood, raised not by their parents in loving homes but instead raised in a culture of violence, a culture of psychological and sexual abuse. It was this foreign and twisted culture that has since spawned a legacy of mental illness, drug addiction, and suicide among indigenous people in communities all across Canada. I know this, because I attended a residential school. I know this, because I myself have been affected. I personally know people who have been affected, family and friends I have watched struggle with this past.
There is not one family in my riding that has not been affected in one way or another by this awful legacy. Sadly, the devastating effect of residential schools has reached beyond the generation that experienced these horrors and has impacted today's generation of young people.
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops is attempting to explain its responsibility away with weak technical arguments. For example, it was suggested that many different dioceses of the church were responsible for the residential schools. Also stated was that a visit by the Pope to Canada to deliver an apology presents a potential financial burden for the church. Really. These arguments are appalling to me.
What is worse is that I read this morning that there is a hesitation to apologize because there are political factors at play that could affect the relationship between the government and the Church, factors such as the new federal summer jobs funding requirement and the Church's reluctance to respond to a direct request from the government.
An archbishop was quoted as saying, “That puts the church in a challenging place.” I am sorry. In response to this quote, I would like to ask the Church to consider the challenging place indigenous people have been put in as a direct result of residential schools. I can assure the archbishop that whatever challenging place the Church may be put in, indigenous people have lived and experienced much worse as a result of residential schools.
The Pope, as the head of the Catholic Church, must take responsibility for its actions and the profound effect those actions have had on generations of indigenous people. He must apologize on behalf of his church and join in the spirit of reconciliation, as has been recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. An apology is not only the right thing to do but is the Christian thing to do. Although an apology will not undo the horrors of the past, it will go a long way in helping survivors heal.