Hanging on every word of the pope in Quebec City on Thursday was a Métis man who just wanted to be part of the conversation.
Louis Gardiner arrived in Quebec for this leg of the papal tour from Saskatchewan, seeking an answer to a long-standing grievance: the lack of recognition for survivors of a residential school that was primarily for Métis children.
“We were never recognized when the settlement agreements were reached,” Gardiner said.
From the 1860s until 1974, Métis and First Nations children in northern Saskatchewan were forced to attend the provincially and church-run Ile-a-la-Crosse residential school.
Survivors of this school say they too suffered systematic abuse and trauma.
“I was given a number, not a name,” Gardiner told CTV News.
While First Nations students received compensation as part of a multibillion-dollar residential school settlement, the Métis, who also suffered at Ile-a-la-Crosse, were denied.
Île-à-la-Crosse, attended mainly by Métis students, was not included in the institutions because it was managed by the provincial government and the federal government, which means that it was not officially considered a boarding school, although it occasionally received federal boarding schools. funding.
While the federal government officially recognized in 2019 that damage was caused to Île-à-la-Crosse, the issue of compensation has still not been resolved.
“According to them, there are several reasons – which I can only take as excuses,” Duane Favel, mayor of Ile-a-la-Crosse and intergenerational survivor, told CTV News.
The battle for compensation has revived old wounds. Although a mixed-race delegation was sent to the Vatican earlier this spring along with First Nations and Inuit delegations to seek the Pope’s first apology for the role of the Catholic Church in residential schools, the Métis have long felt excluded. of the conversation.
The Métis have always fought for status, land and recognition, with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission finding that they were “forgotten” upon receiving recognition for the impact of residential schools on them.
With the pope in the country, Gardiner hopes for a resolution of the more than 20-year-old legal dispute.
“The Catholic [Church] must sit down with the federal government and the province to negotiate a Métis residential school agreement for Île-à-la-Crosse,” said Gardiner.
Gardiner has never gotten close enough to the pope to air his grievances in person, but he promises to plead his case now to the cardinals.