IRC declines invite to take part in Pope’s Iqaluit visit

The Inuvialuit Regional Corporation says it has turned down an invite to be part of the Pope’s Iqaluit visit “as it remains unclear if a formal apology will be made.”

Pope Francis is widely expected to address Indigenous peoples’ requests for a formal apology for the Catholic Church’s role in residential schools and generations of subsequent trauma.

However, neither the Pope nor organizers have confirmed that such an apology will be made on Canadian soil, as Indigenous leaders have specified.


In a statement on Friday, the IRC said it had “respectfully declined” an invitation to Iqaluit as a result.

“The Roman Catholic Church operated three residential schools in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region. Inuvialuit continue to bear the burden of intergenerational trauma stemming from residential schools and will never forget these atrocities,” the statement read.

“The Inuvialuit Regional Corporation recognizes the Papal visit, but until there is a clear statement made by the Roman Catholic church committing to address past wrongs, IRC will withhold any involvement (while the church continues to withhold any settlement payments, despite promises made in the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement).”

The IRC also called for a commitment from the Catholic Church to work with Inuvialuit on a “real approach to reconciliation.”

“We understand that some Inuvialuit will attend the events as part of the Papal visit,” the statement continued. “While not participating itself, IRC wishes Inuvialuit survivors and families healing as they continue their journey.”


The statement comes less than a day after Dene National Chief Gerald Antoine, in a letter also signed by AFN National Chief RoseAnne Archibald, said organizers of the Pope’s visit had shown a “pattern of disregard” for Indigenous peoples and marginalized their involvement.

The Pope arrives in Edmonton on Sunday morning, July 24. He will hold a papal mass at the city’s Commonwealth Stadium on Tuesday, with some NWT residents travelling to attend, including a number of Dene leaders. Meetings with Indigenous peoples will take place on Monday.

Pope Francis will spend Wednesday and Thursday in Quebec City, then Friday in Iqaluit before returning to the Vatican. The Iqaluit stop will include a private meeting with former residential school students.

Various events will be streamed live with interpretation in a number of Indigenous languages, including Dene Zhatié and Inuktitut.