The president of the Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF) says it will have its own meeting with the Pope, separate from the Métis National Council (MNC), and plans to ask for a revitalization of churches in Métis communities.
“Come back into our communities again, revive the churches, because our people need to have faith, our people need to have a place to be a place to go,” said MMF president David Chartrand.
“There are people out there mentally stressing out and struggling. We’re still very strong believers in Christianity and the whole issue of the Catholic Church.”
In two weeks, the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, and the MNC are scheduled to meet with the Pope.
Chartrand said the MMF will have its own 40 member delegation separate from the MNC and will get an opportunity to meet with Pope Francis.
He said many of the churches in Métis communities are losing members and he’s concerned with how difficult it is to find priests to officiate at funerals, weddings and regular church services.
“I will be taking my message to the Pope not to give up on us and we won’t give up on him,” he said.
As a child, Chartrand attended a day school in his home community of Duck Bay, Man., and said he was strapped and physically abused by nuns for speaking Saulteaux.
He said Métis communities have a longstanding relationship with the Catholic church and that he “has no doubt” the Pope will apologize for what has happened to Indigenous people in Canada in regards to residential schools and day schools.
Chartrand said he would still like for abusers from the church to be held accountable.
“I would remind him of those individuals that represent the church, what they did to people, and they did so much damage,” he said.
MMF to ask for Manitoba visit
Another of Chartrand’s priorities during his trip to the Vatican will be to try and convince Pope Francis to visit Manitoba and more specifically, the gravesite of Métis leader Louis Riel.
“I want to bring them to the gravesite of Louis Riel, given Riel believed so much in the church … and I’m going to ask them to come to bless Riel’s gravesite.”
Desiree Orvis, one of the MMF’s youth delegates, has grown up in the church and is also a fancy shawl powwow dancer.
“It’s a great big honour,” she said.
“It’s giving me the chance to represent my family and Indigenous youth.”
She said she would like to gift the Vatican a Métis sash.
MNC President Cassidy Caron said the organization plans to tell the Pope about the experiences that Métis people had at residential and day schools.
“We decided that the best way to spend our one hour with the Pope was to share the stories of the Métis nation … and the direct impacts and experiences from Métis residential and day school survivors, what their unique experiences were and the impact of residential and day schools on our Métis communities,” said Caron.
The MMF’s delegation will be at the Vatican from Dec. 14 -21 and is waiting for details on what day and time they will be meeting with the Pope.