Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Manitoba Metis Federation President David Chartrand is hopeful that the Métis’ visit to the Pope in Vatican City in December will result in the pontiff coming to Canada to apologize directly to Indigenous people for abuses in the residential school system perpetrated by the Roman Catholic Church.
“We’ll be pushing that agenda very hard with the Pope,” Chartrand told a small group of Métis gathered in Edmonton on July 21.
“We believe that him coming here personally and starting the healing process will mean a lot to so many and beginning the transitional change of reconciliation,” he said.
Chartrand is hoping his personal story will have an impact. That story includes nuns beating him on the soft part of his wrist with a red rubber with a metal rod in it whenever he spoke Saulteaux.
He also recalls punishments of standing on his toes, his nose in a chalk circle marked on the blackboard. If he lowered his legs, the nuns would strike him across the back of his calves.
He recalls his long hair being fastened in “about a hundred elastics” to a straight pole and being made to sit at the front of the classrooms with his friends “smirking” at him.
His mother couldn’t stand up for him because she spoke only Saulteaux and, being a staunch Roman Catholic, “she couldn’t see herself fighting with a nun,” recalled Chartrand.
“I will tell the Pope what happened to me and others. I think it will be important for him to hear it directly from me because it happened to me,” he said.
But he will also tell the Pope the “moral of that good story.”
“I still speak Saulteaux fluently. They tried to break who we were, break our spirit, break our identity. We are a multilingual nation. We created Michif as our own language. But that’s the message really. They tried to break us. They couldn’t break us. We are who we are. We are still proud Métis,” said Chartrand.
He will also be raising the issue of Catholic churches abandoning Métis communities.
“We do know we still need churches. We have funerals, we have baptisms, we have weddings, ceremonies. And churches are still vital. Métis are strong Catholics,” he said.
Chartrand expects his Métis delegation of eight, which includes all the MMF cabinet members, to meet with the Pope on Dec. 17. He says there is still room for one more Métis representative. They have been given one hour with the Pope.
He said the First Nations have a delegation of 10 and the Inuit have a delegation of five.
The audiences with the Pope will take place on Dec. 17, 18 and 20.
The Pope will meet with everybody on Dec. 20 and Chartrand expects that to happen in St Peter’s Square, the large plaza in front of St. Peter’s Basilica.
“We hope the Pope will listen to us and take heed,” said Chartrand.
Local Journalism Initiative Reporters are supported by a financial contribution made by the Government of Canada.