Problems in the meetings with the Pope

News Unsettled Opinions
News Unsettled Native Students Union column
Graphic provided by the Native Students Union.

On March 28, delegates from the Métis and Inuit people reached the Vatican City and met with Pope Francis in private meetings. The following week there were more audiences with between the Pope and the Métis and Inuit, and there were also delegates from the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) meeting with the Pope.

These meetings are the results of decades of community members fighting for them. They have been unfortunate, to say the least. One of the biggest issues I had arose when I saw the delegates chosen by the Métis nation. (I am not going to speak to the Inuit or First Nations delegates, obviously, because I am not a part of those communities.)

Several of the Métis Nation delegates simply do not make sense. The leader of the Métis National Council (MNC), Cassidy Caron, makes sense as a delegate to Rome. The Elders and residential school survivors make sense to go to Rome if they feel empowered and to share their stories if they feel empowered. However, there are delegates to Rome that simply treated it like a fun, sight-seeing vacation.

There was no community engagement about who would make the best delegates, or who the community would like to go. It appears that the decisions were all made in private, behind closed doors.

The time in the Vatican was not supposed to be fun. The Vatican is the ultimate stronghold of colonialism. The Vatican has an estimated $20 million in gold reserves and $64 billion in global assets. One article claims it is impossible to calculate how much gold the Vatican possesses in their artwork and objects but estimates it around some $50 million. 

The delegates that chose themselves should have been there in an air of seriousness when sharing the stories. Not taking every opportunity they can to post videos, photos, and ‘vlogs’ to their social media, filled with ‘lol’s and ‘hahaha’s. It’s just plain disrespectful. I feel as if many of the Métis delegates simply treated the outing as a photo opportunity.

The other huge issue in these meetings with the Vatican was the censoring of Indigenous journalists that accompanied the delegates. Brandi Morin, a nehiyaw and Iroquois journalist, has been in the Vatican attempting to cover the goings on. In a video posted to her Twitter, Morin said that the Vatican attempted to bar entry to Indigenous journalists even during public meetings, and only allowed the Vatican’s personal news reporters in. Morin has been posting most of her days there, images of heavily armed guards outside of the Vatican, videos of Pope Francis slowly being helped to make his way down a long procession, but she has not been sugar-coating what is truly going on at the Vatican the last few days.

Another disgusting instance was posted by Tanya Talaga, an Anishinaabe author and journalist. While the Vatican paraded delegates and media reps through their wealth-lined hallways, they stopped at the Anima Mundi Ethnological Museum, which holds stolen and ‘gifted’ Indigenous items. When Talaga photographed some of the items, she was approached and asked to leave the Vatican Museum. This Indigenous woman who took a photo of expropriated items was subsequently kicked out.

All these instances combined paint an unfortunate image of the meetings from the perspective of us still on Turtle Island. The meetings did end with an apology being given by the Pope, and mention of the visit to Turtle Island. This apology does mean a lot to many residential school survivors, I just wish the delegates had treated these meetings less like a vacation and more like the somber responsibility they were.