Trudeau to ask Pope to apologize for residential schools in Canada
OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to ask Pope Francis for a formal apology for the role of the Roman Catholic Church in the residential school system when the two meet during a private audience later this month.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission included the demand for a papal apology — to survivors, their families and communities — among the 94 recommendations in its report on the dark history and legacy of residential schools.
Trudeau, who has promised to act on all 94 recommendations, has previously promised to speak to the Pope about an apology, but noted he could not compel him to agree.
“It is a conversation that is going to have to happen between the two gentlemen,” said a federal government official, who spoke to reporters on the condition that sources not be named.
“Obviously, the Vatican is well aware of the TRC request and they know that’s something that we will be raising, but in terms of advancing that conversation, I think it’s going to have to happen in the room,” the official said.
Canadian bishops have also raised the issue during visits to the Vatican over the past few months.
Trudeau is also bringing his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, to meet Pope Francis when he visits the Vatican May 29, but she and all oth- ers will remain outside the room when the prime minister and the religious leader hold their private conversation.
The visit will also involve a tour of the Vatican museum and the famed Sistine Chapel, where the ceiling was painted by Renaissance artist Michelangelo.
The Vatican stop comes during a trip to Europe for the NATO leaders summit in Brussels and the G7 gathering in Taormina, Italy.
There, the Liberal government is also hoping to get a bilateral meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump — who this week began the countdown to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement — in order continue pressing him on the importance of the relationship between the two countries.
Trudeau will also visit Amatrice, Italy, the site of a devastating earthquake in August 2016, and spend time in Rome for an official bilateral visit including a meeting with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni.
Former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper, who issued a residential schools apology on behalf of the Canadian government in 2008, did not raise the issue directly during a 10-minute audience with Pope Francis two years ago, but did mention the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau runs under a parachute with children during a visit to the Don Christian Recreation Centre in Surrey, B.C., on Friday. Trudeau will meet with the Pope May 29.