In 2015, after years spent compiling the history and ongoing impacts of the residential school system, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) submitted its final report, part of which detailed 94 calls to action to move forward on reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.
Action No. 58 called for the Pope to travel to Canada and apologize for the Catholic Church’s role in the creation and managing of residential schools. Seven years later, the pontiff has finally gone the distance, concluding the Alberta-based portion of his visit last month. The historical moment brought residential school survivors from great distances to the Edmonton region in the pursuit of long-awaited healing.
While the Pope’s visit shows progress, more time is needed to see movement on other crucial actions required by the Catholic Church.
Indeed, survivors and their families are still waiting on the release of church records, commitments for monetary action such as funding to explore potential grave sites, an open dialogue on the fate of Indigenous artifacts kept at the Vatican, and other critical actions required to more adequately address this legacy of systemic violence.
Just as symbolic action on the Catholic Church’s part must lead to concrete change, so too must Canadian institutions step up to the plate by challenging the status-quo that curbs real material justice for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples. Locally on that front, we've seen organizations take some small but important steps toward reconciliation. The City of Airdrie has organized events such as a pipe ceremony in front of City Hall, and helped facilitate the National Indigenous Peoples' Day celebration in June.
On the local education front, Rocky View Schools recently hired a director to head its new Indigenous Learning Branch, and last year commissioned a piece of Indigenous art to be displayed in front of the school division's headquarters in Airdrie.
Settler communities will do well to listen, and to hold these institutions to a high standard of action beyond pretty words and vague promises.