National Chief praises trip to Rome as a significant step towards Reconciliation

    ROME, Italy, Oct. 15 /CNW Telbec/ - Survivors of the Shubenacadie Indian
Residential School, youth and support workers were welcomed by the Vatican and
attended a mass with Pope Benedict XVI in Rome yesterday. The visit was a
result of a request made by First Nations Catholics in Nova Scotia.
    "Reconciliation is not something First Nations can do alone, it must be a
partnership among churches, governments and all Canadians. Reconciliation
means creating a better future and a new community based on mutual respect. I
absolutely believe the Catholic Church has a significant role to play in
helping us pave the way," said AFN National Chief Phil Fontaine. "This is a
significant step."
    The group also presented letters of support to the Vatican, expressing
their faith, as well as an Eagle Feather, which represents a message of peace.
The visit allowed survivors of the Indian Residential Schools to share their
experiences and create a better understanding of the impact residential
schools had on their lives and their community.
    They did not, at this time, request a formal apology for the Catholic
    The visit was part of the ongoing healing process, and represents one of
many initiatives led by the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nation Chiefs to
support their ongoing efforts to reach out and support Indian Residential
School survivors in Atlantic Canada.
    It was also supported by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and is
considered an important step its efforts to come to terms with and reconcile
the tragic legacy of the residential schools.
    For more than a century, the federal government implemented a policy of
educating aboriginal children in residential schools. Over 150,000 aboriginal
children were separated from their families and attended one of the
132 federally supported schools across Canada.
    Some of these schools were operated by the Catholic Church. The
Archdiocese of Halifax, together with the Sisters of Charity, operated the
Indian Residential School at Shubenacadie.

For further information:

For further information: Mark Boudreau, Atlantic Policy Congress, (902)
802-8687, (902) 425-1860 (ext. 260); Violet Paul, (902) 750-0008; Karyn
Pugliese, Health Communications, Assembly of First Nations, (613) 292-1877,

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