Catholics Work to Heal Relationship with Natives

By Rheal Seguin
Globe and Mail

July 16, 2008

QUEBEC The Catholic church is taking steps toward healing its relationship with the native community in Canada, something Phil Fontaine says is the first step toward a full apology for treatment of children in residential schools.

The Assembly of First Nations' leader had breakfast with Most Reverend Pierre-Andre Fournier, Auxiliary Bishop of Quebec and Bishops Martin Veillette from Trois-Rivieres and Eugene Tremblay from Amos, as well as The Most Reverend Gerard Pettipas, Archbishop of Grouard-McLennan.

He said at a news conference following the breakfast, that at this time he doesn't expect an apology from the Pope, but it is something he'd eventually like to hear.

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty.
Photo by Akira Suemori

"First we must determine the meaning of reconciliation," Mr. Fontaine said. "But an apology from the Holy Father would give meaning to our efforts."

Mr. Fontaine was in Quebec for the Federation's annual meeting and will also be part of the annual premier's conference, which officially began Wednesday.

Mr. Fontaine said Tuesday that following last month's residential schools apology in Parliament, he hopes to have the support of the premiers as he attempts to unblock some of the federal dollars earmarked as part of the $5-billion Kelowna Accord.

The accord was drafted in 2005 by the former Liberal government, but the Harper government decided not to implement the accord when it took power in January 2006.

The AFN begins its annual meeting in Quebec City on Tuesday and will meet with the premiers Wednesday when they begin their own meeting of the Council of the Federation.

Mr. Fontaine says he hopes to ensure the premiers continue to support initiatives to help bridge the socio-economic gap that divides aboriginals and the rest of the country.

During their meetings, the 13 provincial and territorial premiers hope to settle their differences in key areas of labour mobility and interprovincial trade plus bring out strategies on how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Council of the Federation meetings will be held against the backdrop of Quebec City's extravagant 400th-birthday celebrations.

Premiers at the summit will also meet with groups from the National Aboriginal Organization, which includes the Assembly of First Nations among its member organizations.


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