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'Some of our people were murdered': Mixed reactions locally as Pope Francis apologizes for the residential school system

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Local Indigenous peoples gathered Monday afternoon at St. Jerome’s, a Roman Catholic university in Waterloo, to watch Pope Francis apologize for the forced assimilation of Indigenous children at residential schools.

Many in attendance said it’s going to take at least a few days before they can process how they truly feel, but after the Pope's address, they say actions will mean far more than words.

Mike O'Dah Ziibing Ashkewe, an Ojibwe-Chippewas of Nawash, said it was a moment of historic words, but he questions if it is a moment of historic action.

"I mean, I'm a Sixties Scoop survivor, and the Government of Canada apologized to me, and it wasn't enough,” said O'Dah Ziibing Ashkewe.

He said he believes the Pope has made some missteps on the road to reconciliation.

"I think the Pope made a mistake by not attending some other places where he's been invited like Kamloops, especially Winnipeg,” said O'Dah Ziibing Ashkewe.

He added: “he was begging for forgiveness and that's asking some of us an awful lot because some of our people were murdered.”

In Kitchener, Land Back Camp co-founder Bangishimo watched the apology from their home, saying it was hard to watch at points because of the intergenerational trauma in their own family.

Bangishimo's mother went to St. Margaret's Residential School in Fort Francis, Ont.

“My mother and all of her siblings went to the school. My grandparents and her parents went to residential school too. So now I'm seeing the impact that's having on my life, and on the life of my nieces and nephews,” said Bangishimo.

Bangishimo said the Canadian government has just as much work to do as the Pope does.

Bangishimo also questions the amount of money that has gone into the papal visit.

“The government can spend 35 million on a journey to come visit so-called Canada, but that 35 million could've been used for healing services,” said Bangishimo.

Pope Francis will be making several other stops across the country over the coming days.

Some say the trip to Canada to apologize on Canadian soil is a necessary first step.

“When he goes to his final resting place I hope his deeds are written in stone, not in sand,” said O'Dah Ziibing Ashkewe.

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