Pope Francis and a high-stakes apology for Catholic cruelty- POLITICO

Cindy F. Cape

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Thanks for reading the Ottawa Playbook. I’m your host, Nick Taylor-Vaisey. Greetings from Edmonton, where Playbook is following the historic papal visit — just the second trip abroad this year for POPE FRANCIS, whose persistent knee problems forced the cancellation of planned trips to South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

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THE APOLOGY OF A LIFETIME — WILLIE LITTLECHILD was six years old when he was torn from his family and enroled at Ermineskin Residential School, one of the largest institutions in Canada dedicated to erasing Indigenous culture, language and traditions.

This morning, Littlechild will introduce Pope Francis, the leader of the very same church that perpetrated decades of abuse and violence, to survivors after the pontiff visits the site of the very same school Littlechild attended in Maskwacis, Alberta.

The Pope is there to make amends, on Treaty Six territory, for the church’s role in what the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) termed “cultural genocide.”

Littlechild, a 78-year-old former TRC commissioner, was on the floor of the House of Commons when then-PM STEPHEN HARPER apologized for the government’s role in the school system. He met two previous popes, John Paul II and Benedict XVI. And he was in the room earlier this year when, on his birthday, Indigenous survivors received a private audience at the Vatican with Francis — and heard a surprise apology.

Now, Littlechild will offer the pope a warm welcome to Treaty Six land south of Edmonton.

 — The order of ceremonies: Francis is scheduled to arrive at Our Lady of Seven Sorrows Catholic Church in Maskwacis at 10 a.m. local time.

“We are a unique Catholic community of Indigenous peoples and settlers who pray together using symbols, music, and rituals which are meaningful to our People and to our culture,” reads the Seven Sorrows website. “The interior of our Church is designed to illustrate our journey in faith using our Cree culture.”

Next stop is the Ermineskin Cemetery, where the Pope will offer a prayer. After meeting four Maskwacis chiefs on the site of the closed school, it’s onto Maskwacis Park, the site of local pow wow gatherings, for remarks at 10:30. Littlechild says 2,000 chairs have been set up.

The plan is for the Pope to return to Edmonton at 11:30 for a visit to Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples.

THE APOLOGY — The big question when the Pope speaks to First Nations, Métis and Inuit gathered at Maskwacis is: Who will he apologize for?

In April, Francis qualified his words of remorse:

“For the deplorable conduct of these members of the Catholic Church, I ask for God’s forgiveness and I want to say to you with all my heart: I am very sorry. And I join my brothers, the Canadian bishops, in asking your pardon.”

Read his full remarks here.

Most survivors are hoping for more today. At a minimum, they want Francis to apologize on behalf of the institution he leads as a whole, not merely those who ran the schools.

Here are three perspectives on what the Pope has to say:

→ PHIL FONTAINE, a survivor and two-time national chief of the Assembly of First Nations: “I’m looking for words that will give us comfort. It will bring some peace in our lives, solace and hopefully take us to a place where we can finally forgive for our experiences.”

CYNTHIA WESLEY-ESQUIMAUX, a daughter of survivors and chair on Truth and Reconciliation at Lakehead University: “People will now have a story to tell their children, their grandchildren, about the pope’s visit, and about his acknowledgment that this damage has been done,” she said. “It will also help to explain to Canadians generally that this is the truth of the reconciliation story.”

→ LORI CAMPBELL, the University of Regina’s associate vice president of Indigenous engagement who was taken from her family, and adopted by a white family as part of the Sixties Scoop: “For those of us in particular who are the legacy, and still experiencing the impact of what the residential schools did to our aunties and uncles and grandparents, it further reinforces distrust. It doesn’t support reconciliation, because words are just words, and especially words that seem like they’ve been forced to have to finally say, without concrete actions.”

— Practical demands: Many Indigenous leaders want Francis to revoke centuries-old edicts known as the Papal Bulls, which included the so-called “doctrine of discovery” that denied sovereignty of non-Christian peoples as Europeans explored and claimed new lands.

Over the weekend, the Globe and Mail reported on the legal complexity of the debate over the doctrine of discovery. BRUCE MCIVOR, a lawyer and member of the Manitoba Métis Federation, set the stakes for that debate.

“Every time someone in Canada sells property and wrings their hands in glee over all the money they’ve made, they are participating in the Doctrine of Discovery. Every resource development, every pipeline — that’s all based on the Doctrine of Discovery,” McIvor said.

The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation has led calls for the Catholic Church to turn over millions of pages of documents related to residential schools.

Also on the list is Catholic fundraising agreed to by the church under the 2006 Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. Most of those funds haven’t materialized, though Canadian bishops have since renewed a promise to do so.

THE ENTOURAGE — Francis flew precisely 8,430 kilometers (5,238 miles) from Rome to Edmonton aboard an ITA Airways A330-202.

He’s joined by a traveling inner circle known as a seguito, an Italian word for “the following.”

The seguito includes Cardinal PIETRO PAROLIN, the Vatican’s secretary of State; Archbishop EDGAR PEÑA PARRA, the substitute of the secretariat of State; Archbishop PAUL RICHARD GALLAGHER, secretary for relations with states and international organizations; Cardinal MARC OUELLET, a Quebecer who serves as prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops; and Cardinal MICHAEL CZERNY, the Czech-born Canadian who serves as prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

BACK IN SESSION — The House committee circuit is roaring back to life this week.

— About that Rogers outage: First up this morning is an industry committee that wants to get to the bottom of the day-long nationwide outage that brought disconnected misery to millions. Innovation Minister FRANÇOIS-PHILIPPE CHAMPAGNE, he who ordered the nation’s telecoms to come up with a plan to support each other in case of future emergencies, is in the hot seat at 11 a.m.

Also appearing: ISED Deputy Minister SIMON KENNEDY will testify alongside a pair of senior assistant deputies: ÉRIC DAGENAIS from the spectrum and telecommunications sector, and MARK SCHAAN from strategy and innovation policy.

— The C-suite: At noon, the committee hears from Rogers president and CEO TONY STAFFIERI, chief technology and information officer RON MCKENZIE, and chief regulatory officer TED WOODHEAD.

— The regulators: The committee gathers again at 2 p.m. for another round of witnesses, including CRTC Chair and CEO IAN SCOTT and a band of senior bureaucrats.

Law prof MICHAEL GEIST, the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-Commerce Law, headlines the civil-society voices who will also appear.

COMPETING TIMESLOT — The House public safety committee also gathers at 11 a.m. MPs are on a mission to study allegations of interference in the 2020 Nova Scotia mass murder investigation.

Minister of Emergency Preparedness BILL BLAIR will be first to defend his record on the contentious file, alongside public safety deputy minister ROB STEWART. RCMP Commissioner BRENDA LUCKI will follow Blair. After Lucki, former RCMP officials LEE BERGERMAN and SHARON TESSIER will testify for two hours.

— Prime Minister JUSTIN TRUDEAU will attend the papal visit at Ermineskin Cree Nation. Indigenous Services Minister PATTY HAJDU and Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister MARC MILLER will join the PM.

— NDP leader JAGMEET SINGH will attend the papal visit to the former Ermineskin Residential School. He’ll be joined by MPs BLAKE DESJARLAIS and LORI IDLOUT, as well as Ontario NDP deputy leader SOL MAMAKWA.

— The Pacific Northwest Economic Region annual summit kicks off in Calgary. First up at 8 a.m. local time is a breakfast keynote featuring DAVID COHEN and KIRSTEN HILLMAN, moderated by CABC CEO SCOTTY GREENWOOD.

Also on the speakers’ roster: LAURIE TRAUTMAN, LAURA DAWSON, ALLISON GIFFORD, GARY MAR, DAVID WILKINS and SONYA SAVAGE. Check the full agenda for all the policymakers and powerbrokers.

8:30 a.m. (9:30 a.m. ADT) Transport Minister OMAR ALGHABRA will announce funding under the Oceans Protection Plan in Saint John, N.B.

10 a.m. Tory MPs RAQUEL DANCHO, STEPHEN ELLIS and RICK PERKINS hold a press conference on allegations of political interference in the 2020 Nova Scotia Mass Murder Investigation.

11 a.m. Emergency Preparedness Minister BILL BLAIR will appear before the House of Commons public safety committee looking into allegations of political interference in the 2020 Nova Scotia mass murder investigation. RCMP Commissioner BRENDA LUCKI will appear at 12 p.m.

11 a.m. Industry Minister FRANÇOIS-PHILIPPE CHAMPAGNE will appear before the House of Commons Industry Committee studying the Rogers Communications outage earlier this month. Rogers CEO TONY STAFFIERI will appear at 12 p.m. CRTC CEO IAN SCOTT is up at 2 p.m.

12:30 p.m. (2 p.m. NDT) Intergovernmental Affairs Minister DOMINIC LEBLANC, Official Languages Minister GINETTE PETITPAS TAYLOR and Newfoundland Premier ANDREW FUREY will hold a press conference in St. John’s, N.L., following a meeting of the Atlantic Growth Strategy Leadership Committee.

COVID ALERT — Health Canada tucked an evaluation of the now-defunct federal COVID Alert app, the Bluetooth-powered federal effort to reduce exposure to the virus, into a dusty corner of its website after winding down the app in June.

COVID Alert was not long for this world after testing rules across much of Canada made many users ineligible for the PCR testing required to receive a code — known as a one-time key — they needed to punch into the app in order to prompt notifications to close contacts.

— Red flag: The department’s internal auditors conducted the evaluation. Here’s a rare dose of candor deep within a long list of reflections:

“Trust in government is … clearly an issue,” write the evaluators.

In one study on the effectiveness of the app, respondents were asked “if they believe the government does not collect their personal information and that it does not allow the Government of Canada to determine their location.”

Fifty-two percent did not believe the government.

A second study found 34 percent of Canadians who didn’t download COVID Alert “cited not trusting the privacy of the app or the government, and another 29 percent didn’t want to allow government access to location data.

— Worth noting: The app’s evaluators concluded that user privacy was effectively safeguarded according to all federal, provincial and territorial principles.

— Lives saved: The June report took a snapshot of COVID Alert usage at the height of the Covid wave that peaked in the spring of 2021. More than 10,000 Canadians entered a one-time key into their app — which triggered notifications to 66,000 users who’d spent more than 15 minutes near a Covid-positive user.

After all of those phones pinged across the land, 640 users also tested positive and entered their own keys into the app.

The evaluators cited a 2021 McGill study that claimed the app “averted between 6,284 and 10,894” infections between March and July of 2021 in six provinces: Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan.

Those researchers estimate the app prevented between 57 and 101 deaths.

— In conclusion: COVID Alert likely limited the spread to some hard-to-quantify degree, say the evaluators. But they closed with a laundry list of issues that hindered the app:

“A number of challenges, including issues with the distribution of one-time keys, technical issues, the burden on app users, privacy and trust concerns, and a perceived lack of effectiveness have limited the app’s effectiveness and, as a result, it may not have reached its full potential.”

RICHARD WARNICA had the talker of the weekend in the Toronto Star. He sorted out the blame for Pearson Airport’s world-leading delays. (And took a lot of flights in the process.)

— Today’s must-read for public servants comes from MICHAEL KARLIN, the strategic policy lead at the Canadian Digital Service, on his Medium blog. Karlin digs into all the tradeoffs for government that come with a return to offices:

“I do hope that senior management understands the risk trade-off that they are asking of staff and that some people will not see increased camaraderie as a sufficient excuse to return to offices. In this context, get used to angry staff, who may become less productive because of it.”

— At APTN News: Former HR director sues AFN for wrongful dismissal, ex-staff call workplace ‘toxic’. ROBIN HENRY, the network reports, will seek C$200,000 in damages after alleging he was terminated without cause on May 5.

— POLITICO’s DAVID SIDERSrenders a verdict in the Trump-Pence desert showdown. (It was one-sided.) Our colleagues MATT DIXON and HANNAH FARROW follow another developing GOP rivalry: Trump vs. RON DESANTIS in battleground Florida.

— Retired Unifor boss JERRY DIAS is alleged to have pressured an assistant to drop an ethics complaint against him, reports the Globe’s VANMALA SUBRAMANIAM.

For POLITICO Pro subscribers, our latest policy newsletter:Canada’s hockey scandal deepens

In other news for subscribers:

Fear and suspicion haunt Putin’s Black Sea grain deal with Ukraine
‘It looks terrible’: Dems prep a tax cut for business as broader agenda stalls
Inside the Pentagon slugfest over the future of the U.S. Navy fleet
White House clash with Pelosi over Taiwan spills into the open
‘Dead bodies’ and dump sites draw DOJ civil rights probe of Houston

TELL US EVERYTHING — What are you hearing that you need Playbook to know? Send it all our way.

Birthdays: Happy birthday to former P.E.I. premier and retired senator CATHERINE CALLBECK, former Montreal mayor and Liberal MP DENIS CODERRE, and B.C. Minister of State for Infrastructure BOWINN MA.

HBD + 3 to MICHÈLE DIONNE, the wife of recent birthday boy JEAN CHAREST who celebrated the big 6-5.

Movers and shakers: Compass Rose recently brought on LOUISE GIROUARD as a public affairs counselor. Girouard was most recently the regional head of communications at Fisheries and Oceans Canada in B.C.

Former Ontario Liberal comms guy WILL WUEHRjoins Crestview as a consultant.

LINA MARAGHA, the outgoing foreign policy lead at the Canadian Arab Institute, is now a junior adviser at the Privy Council Office.

TOLGA YALKINis now assistant superintendent of policy innovation and stakeholder affairs at the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions Canada.

PM Trudeau recently disclosed to the ethics commissioner a pair of G7 summit flights paid for by the German government. The PM added the names of the posse that accompanied him: KATIE TELFORD, PHILIP PROULX, ADAM SCOTTI, MARJORIE MICHEL, ALEXANDRE GRAVEL, BEN CHIN, PATRICK TRAVERS, CAMERON AHMAD, BENJAMIN SPARKES, AKSHAY GROVER and SARAH JACKSON.

Farewells: Longtime Ottawa Sun columnist SUSAN SHERRINGhas died. Here’s a sampling of fond remembrances on Sunday.

CATHERINE MCKENNEY, candidate for Ottawa mayor: “This is devastating news. Sue was a formidable journalist & she cared deeply about this city. Most of all she was my friend and I loved her and will miss her.”

LAURA DUDAS, Ottawa city councilor: “She never shied away from digging until she uncovered the real story. Her columns were lessons in civics and dripping in wit.”

PETER O’NEIL, former journalist: “We worked together on (our) student newspaper. And she once gave me brutally blunt and wildly perceptive personal advice that stung. But I should have listened and followed it.”

DAVID REEVELY, former Ottawa city hall reporter and columnist: “A gruff, cranky, old-school journalist with the softest heart.”

MARK TAYLOR, former Ottawa city councilor: “When you were her subject, sometimes you were happy and sometimes not so much — but she always wrote from the heart & cared about Ottawa.”

Friday’s answer: A nuclear reactor became operational at a facility in Chalk River, Ont., on July 22, 1947. That reactor helped pioneer CANDU technology that Canada exported all around the world.

Props to PATRICK DION, LAURA JARVIS, STEVE DEUTSCH, ROBERT MCDOUGALL, BILL PRISTANSKI, SHEILA GERVAIS, GORDON RANDALL, BRAM ABRAMSON, MAUREEN MACGILLIVRAY, PAUL GILLETT and GERRY THORNE.

Monday’s question: Which federal party was born on this day in 1990?

Send your answers to [email protected]

Playbook wouldn’t happen without Luiza Ch. Savage and editor Sue Allan.


https://www.politico.com/newsletters/ottawa-playbook/2022/07/25/pope-francis-and-a-high-stakes-apology-for-catholic-cruelty-00047632

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