'I'll believe it when I see it': Local First Nations community expects apology from Pope Francis
Pope Francis has accepted an invitation to visit Canada and many in the local First Nations community are expecting an apology.
"I'll believe it when I see it, but I would like to see it myself," said John Elliott, a survivor of the former Mohawk Institute Residential School in Brantford.
Although that Residential School wasn't run by the Catholic Church, an apology from the Pope for the abuses suffered at the site would be welcomed, Elliott said.
The Vatican said the Pope is willing to visit Canada in the context of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls for an apology from the Pope for the Catholic Church's role in Canada's residential school.
The calls for a Papal visit have grown in recent months following the discovery of the remains of 215 children near a former Kamloops Residential School.
That discovery prompted a request from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for the Pope to apologize.
In September, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops apologized.
On Wednesday, the Canadian Bishops announced Pope Francis had accepted an invitation as part of a pilgrimage of healing and reconciliation.
"Definitely still a lot of mixed emotions," said Six Nations of the Grand River Chief Mark Hill.
He's concerned a visit from the Pope may only offer empty words.
Hill said he hopes the Pope can commit to helping with ground searches for remains and releasing Residential School records.
"What I would like to see is concrete action is actually going to happen," he said. "We're looking for action in how we can make the lives of our people in this country better."
The Anglican Church, among others, offered apologies in the 1990s for its role in operating Residential Schools, like the Mohawk Institute.
But Allen Jorgenson, a Christian Theologian at Martin Luther University College, calls the Pope's announcement a much bigger step.
"In addition to the apologies of the Oblates in the 1990s, we also have Presbyterians, the United Church of Canada and the Anglican Church of Canada also issuing apologies, so those were significant as well but it wasn't fulsome enough," he said. "This is an important step."
While it wasn't the Catholic Church that operated the Mohawk Institute, Elliott believes a Papal apology would help heal old wounds.
"Just thinking of all the guys that died in the last two years that never got to hear … what he's got to say about his apology," he said. "They never got to hear."