Apologies from the Pope: “We have often been told that we are nothing”

Apologies from the Pope: “We have often been told that we are nothing”

Hundreds of natives and non-natives gathered in front of the basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré to attend a historic papal mass. Between laughter and tears, the members of the First Nations present say they are ready to forgive the Church, but remember their ills. Some have agreed to share their reactions to the pope’s apology to Subway.

The day is particularly emotional for a former boarder, Mamiamskum. Accompanied by her husband, she painfully recalls the few years spent in various boarding schools, which she was forced to attend from the age of 4.

It was horrible. The teachers hit us with sticks and keys. The food was filthy, we were forced to cut our hair very short.


When his parents succeeded in extricating him from this horror, Mamiamskum no longer spoke his mother tongue: he had been forced to forget it, by teaching him French. “I couldn’t talk to my parents anymore. I remember they were crying,” she recalls.

better days

But Mamiamskum is not steeped in resentment, quite the contrary. “I am so happy to see everyone reunited, and especially to see the pope taking the time to apologize to us. I think he’s honest.”

Mamiamskum and her spouse Pierre Dominique. Photo credit: Éric Martel/Journal Métro.

She and her husband, Pierre Dominique, are believers. The latter attended the passage of Pope John Paul II in Quebec, in 1984. “If we want to be forgiven, we must forgive, considers Mr. Dominique, a native of Schefferville, nearly 1000 km from Quebec. I believe in the apologies and forgiveness of the Church.”

In memory

Carrie Dedam covered the eight-hour drive that separates her native New Brunswick from Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré. Attending mass was a duty for her. She did it as a tribute to a family friend, who boarded in Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia, from age 4 to 16. “He was in residential schools for so long that he lost his language, his culture. He was never able to reintegrate into his community,” says Ms. Dedam, also from the First Nations, with emotion.

Ms. Dedam chose to come with the portrait of her friend, who died six years ago. “I’m sure he would have liked to be here, to be at peace with his past,” she said.

Carrie Dedam with the portrait of her friend, a deceased former boarder. Photo credit: Éric Martel/Journal Métro.

All in all, she is satisfied with the apologies pronounced by the pope.

I think that’s good, even if it’s not enough. I find it regrettable that he does not mention the sexual violence imposed on the residents, it is however very important.

Carrie Dedam

wind of youth

The historic mass attracts spectators of all ages. Jeremiah Savoie, 14, insisted on traveling seven hours with his grandparents to attend the event.

Some members of his family experienced horrors in residential schools, he says. “I’m told stories of people being beaten, held in cages, forced to put their hands on the stove,” he shares. Nothing will be able to forgive what happened: children died all the same”.

For him, the presence of the pope is still a good step towards reconciliation.

Forgiveness is important to us, because we have often been told that we are nothing. We weren’t like other humans. One day, I would like us to understand that we are only normal people.

Jeremiah Savoy

Members of the First Nations and pilgrims gathered in front of the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré at 5:30 a.m. Around 10,000 seats were available, but only 1600 indoors. The majority of them were reserved for First Nations people.

Hundreds of police officers from the Sûreté du Québec were deployed for the occasion, as well as numerous officers from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

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