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Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Trudeau’s 2017 papal gift of the Jesuit ‘Relations'

 

Children’s shoes are seen on the steps of the Holy Rosary Catholic Cathedral in downtown Vancouver, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

As an Indigenous delegation prepares to visit the Vatican, it’s worth revisiting Trudeau’s 2017 papal gift of the Jesuit ‘Relations’

A delegation of Indigenous people with the Assembly of First Nations, Métis National Council and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami travels to meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican for events during the week of March 28.

On this occasion, it’s worth reflecting on a gift Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave Pope Francis when he visited the Vatican nearly five years ago.

During Trudeau’s May 2017 visit, he offered Pope Francis a set of the Jesuit Relations. These are annual reports written by missionaries in what is now eastern Canada from 1632 to 1672, first published in Paris.

The Prime Minister was in Rome in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action #58. This urges the pope to apologize for the church’s role in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical and sexual abuse of First Nations, Inuit and Métis children in Catholic-run residential schools.

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But with renewed calls for a Papal apology growing louder and a visit to Canada by Pope Francis expected, it’s worth considering whether efforts to enlist powerful institutions like the Catholic Church in reconciliation have been helped or hindered by what Canadians hear about these early written records. 

MORE: Indian Residential Schools: What does it mean if the Pope apologizes in Canada? 

 If you are an Indian Residential School survivor, or have been affected by the residential school system and need help, you can contact the 24-hour Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419

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Detailed discussion of the Bering Strait theory and other scientific theories about the population of the modern-day Americas is beyond the scope of this essay. However, it should be noted that Indian people have expressed suspicion that DNA analysis is a tool that scientists will use to support theories about the origins of tribal people that contradict tribal oral histories and origin stories. Perhaps more important,the alternative origin stories of scientists are seen as intending to weaken tribal land and other legal claims (and even diminish a history of colonialism?) that are supported in U.S. federal and tribal law. As genetic evidence has already been used to resolve land conflicts in Asian and Eastern European countries, this is not an unfounded fear.

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