In the afternoon (local time) another meeting with indigenous people in Edmonton is on the agenda. Meeting the indigenous people is the central part of Francis’ six-day journey. The background are finds of deceased children near boarding schools that were once run by the Catholic Church. The discovery brought to light the gruesome past of Indigenous children, who were taken from their families and abused by school officials. The indigenous people demanded that Francis seek forgiveness from them in Canada.
The acts of abuse occurred over decades in state and church-run institutions. Children died as a result of disease, starvation or related to abuse. The cases received international attention when experts discovered anonymous graves of dead children near a boarding school just over a year ago.
In the indigenous population of Canada, family members have long suspected what fate befell their relatives in these institutions. The children, some of whom were torn from their families, were to be taught Western culture there. The debate about how to treat Aboriginal children has been going on in Canada for years. The church has been criticized for not providing adequate compensation for survivors.
Before his departure, Pope Francis announced that he would come as a penitent to the second largest country in the world in terms of area, with around 38 million inhabitants. On the flight to Edmonton on Sunday, he said one had to be “vigilant” on this trip. On the way from the airport, there were a few people on the side of the road waiting for the pope to drive by. But there was also a banner on one bridge that read “No to apology”.
Edmonton, the capital of the province of Alberta with around one million inhabitants, is also home to a large Ukrainian diaspora. However, it is not officially known whether Francis, who recently said he wants to travel to the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, will meet representatives of the community.