(Lheidli T’enneh Territory, Prince George, BC) — The Vatican has released Pope Francis’ itinerary for his visit to Canada this summer, and Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc is not on it. The BC Assembly of First Nations is calling on the Pope to revise his plans to include a visit to Tk’emlúps territory, including the site of the first recovery of unmarked graves at a Canadian residential school.
"This egregious oversight must be rectified immediately," said Regional Chief Terry Teegee. "Kupki7 Rosanne Casimir made the voyage to the Vatican with a full delegation of Chiefs from across Canada. The Pope must show reciprocal respect to Kupki7 Casimir and Tk’emlúps."
Representatives from First Nations, Inuit, and Metis communities travelled to Rome earlier this year for an audience with Pope Francis following the recovery of 215 unmarked graves on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. The trip carried a great deal of emotional energy, considering the Catholic Church's responsibility for the crimes against Indigenous children over the 100+ years that they ran residential schools across the country.
"My meeting with Pope Francis was respectful," said Kupki7 Casimir, Chief of the Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc and BCAFN Board Member. "His apology was a good starting place for the Church to acknowledge the horrific damage they have committed to First Nations people. But he needs to show good faith on this visit by paying his respects to the Indigenous children buried on the Kamloops Indian Residential School grounds where his church operated."
The BC Assembly of First Nations will press for a revision to the Pope's itinerary and hope that Catholic leadership sees the wisdom of including Tk’emlúps in this important visit.
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