Manitoba Metis Federation president preparing to meet the Pope this month

In less than two weeks, the president of the Manitoba Metis Federation will be heading to Rome to meet with the Pope and ask him to come to Canada and offer an official apology for the Catholic Church’s role in residential schools.

“Coming from the Pope, (an apology) will have such immense power in starting true healing,” David Chartrand told Global News.

David Chartrand is one several First Nations, Inuit and Metis delegates that will be meeting with Pope Francis from Dec. 17 to 20.

“It’s going to be a proud day for me,” he said.

“It will be something I will carry with me to my last breath, of pride in representing my people.”

In addition to asking for a official apology on Canadian soil, Chartrand says he will present the Pope with a beaded cross and mukluks. He will also ask that the Pope visit and bless Louis Riel’s gravesite, and help strengthen the relationship between the Catholic Church and Metis communities.

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Read more: Indigenous leaders to have private meeting with Pope during Vatican visit

Chartrand says the tone of his message to the Pope will be unique.

“The Metis have always been connected to the church,” he said.

“Going back several hundred years, if you look at the buffalo hunts, even the buffalo hunts started with the priest praying. Our affiliation with the church goes back several hundred years, and for us to be a part of it truly is a reflection of our continuation of our hope, that the church is not abandoning us.”

Chartrand will also ask the Pope to enhance the church’s presence in Metis communities.

“Citizens tell me quite loud and clear, they have great fear of shutting down churches in our villages now,” Chartrand said.

“Our people are worried about that — what does the future look like if there’s no church? So I’m going to be raising this issue, this journey of hope with the Pope, and request that he put emphasis to the Archbishop, emphasis to himself to invest back to the churches here in Canada.”

Read more: Alberta Indigenous representatives prepare to meet the Pope this month in the Vatican

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As a child, Chartrand attended a Catholic day school managed by nuns. He also says he may share some of his own stories of trauma and abuse with the Pope.

“They used to whip us (on our wrists) every time you spoke Saulteaux,” he said.

“They were trying to break us. They never did — I speak Saulteaux fluently today. She couldn’t break me.”

Chartrand says he hopes an apology will start the healing journey for many.

“There’s going to be significant impact if he comes and apologizes and you’ll see beginning of a healing process,” he said.

“Some will still be in such great pain, they won’t accept it. But I think from the Metis side, from the Red River, we will accept it and we will start healing.”

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B.C. Indigenous groups react to news of Papal visit to Canada – Oct 28, 2021

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