Ottawa announces more than $30M for Indigenous communities, organizations to mark papal visit

The federal government announced on Wednesday more than $30 million in new funding to support Indigenous communities and organizations during the upcoming papal visit.

Pope Francis will tour Canada from July 24 to 29. The goal of the visit is to advance reconciliation and healing between the Roman Catholic Church, First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities.

During the trip, he’s expected to expand on an apology he delivered at the Vatican last spring for residential school abuse in institutions run by his church.

Ottawa is making $30.2 million available to Indigenous communities and organizations to cover the travel costs of residential school survivors who want to see the Pope in person, according to a statement from the office of Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller.

The money can also be used for community events and ceremonies. 

Survivors should get in touch with their local governments to arrange travel, said a senior government source who was not authorized to speak publicly.

The same source said survivors travelling to see the Pope are eligible to bring a family member with them for support.

The source also said communities and organizations are expected to learn by the end of the week how much they will receive for the papal visit, and the money will be distributed before the Pope arrives.

Feds also covering cost of Pope’s security

An additional $3 million is being made available to Indigenous partners in the three regions — Edmonton, Quebec City and Iqaluit — that are hosting the papal visit, the statement from Miller’s office said.

It added another $2 million will be spent on Indigenous language interpretation for the papal visit.

The money is coming from the departments of Indigenous Services Canada and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada.

Ottawa is also covering the cost of the Pope’s security. The exact details have not been announced.

Miller’s office said that if communities need more support, it’s prepared to help as needed.

More than 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children were forced to attend church-run, government-funded residential schools between the 1870s and 1997.

The Roman Catholic Church ran most of the institutions. 

In its final report, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission urged the Pope to apologize on Canadian soil for the church’s role in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical and sexual abuse of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children in Catholic-run residential schools. 

It demanded that the apology be made within one year of the release of its report in 2015.

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