Métis leader disappointed Pope Francis doesn’t plan to visit Manitoba

The president of the Manitoba Métis Federation is disappointed Pope Francis will not visit Winnipeg while he’s in Canada.

When David Chartrand met with Pope Francis in Vatican City last month, he asked him to visit Winnipeg, which has the largest Indigenous population in Canada and is the home of the Métis.

“Very disappointed in the hearts of hearts,” Chartrand said on Friday.

The Pope will make three main stops, in Edmonton, Quebec City and Iqaluit, during the last week of July. His last event will be on July 29, while the following day is expected to be a travel day.

In April, Chartrand said he hoped Francis would come to Winnipeg and bless the grave of Louis Riel, the Métis leader and founder of Manitoba who led resistance movements to defend Métis rights and identity.

Chartrand said he understands the Pope has health issues that limit his tour of Canada, but he’s not giving up.

He said he is still working with Archbishop Richard Gagnon and writing letters of appeal to the Vatican to include Winnipeg in the papal visit.

“I was hoping that our message and our presentation and all the evidence we brought forward would be so strong that he’d have to come to Manitoba and to meet the Métis at Red River,” he said.

The blessing of Riel’s grave “would really have been massive, a major step forward in reconciliation,” he said.

Chartrand is sending a letter to the Pope urging him to reconsider, while also making preparations for a delegation from Manitoba to attend the visit in Edmonton.

Other Indigenous leaders in Manitoba, including Phil Fontaine, a former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, had also called for the Pope to visit Manitoba.

More locations near the main sites and specific itinerary details will be released six to eight weeks before the papal visit, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops said.

The pontiff initially announced his plan to visit Canada during a meeting on April 1 with First Nations, Inuit and Métis delegates who travelled to the Vatican to meet him.

Pope Francis also offered an initial apology for the actions of some Catholic Church members in Canada’s residential schools.

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