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Okanagan Nation Alliance fighting for justice following Pope’s apology

Syilx chiefs say apologies and empty words will never heal the pain
Members of the Okanagan Nation Alliance at the 2021 Okanagan Nation Alliance annual general assembly. (Okanagan Nation Alliance/Facebook)

The Syilx Nation is demanding accountability from Pope Francis, stating his apology for the conduct of some Roman Catholic Church members in the Canadian residential school system is not enough.

This week, the Pontiff, speaking in Italian, asked for God’s forgiveness for the deplorable conduct of members of the Catholic Church.

“I want to say to you with all my heart: I am very sorry,” Francis said, during a final meeting with First Nations, Inuit and Métis delegates at the Vatican.

“And I join my brothers, the Canadian bishops in asking your pardon.”

Francis also said he will come to Canada.

An estimated 150,000 Indigenous children were forced to attend residential schools and more than 60 per cent of the schools were run by the Catholic Church.

The meeting and apology come 11 months after the initial findings of 215 children in unmarked graves at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, discovered by the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation, sparking a national reckoning.

Following Pope Francis’ apology, the Syilx Nation issued a press release stating the Roman Catholic Church lacked accountability in its apology.

“The impact of genocide upon all our peoples is a stain on Canada’s history and will take more than Truth and Reconciliation talk to ever come to terms with what our people have had to live through to be here today,” said Osoyoos Chief Clarence Louie. “We are demanding justice, equality, and actualization of human rights, not apologies without real action.”

The federal government also recently announced $2.9 million to assist in the recovery of unmarked remains from Indian Residential Schools in Canada.

More than 7,000 unmarked graves have been found in the last year, but a statement from the Okanagan Nation Alliance says “these actions continue to fail to take responsibility for the criminal acts of genocide that occurred.”

The Okanagan Nation Alliance says it will continue to actively fight for justice for all residential school victims.

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