The Union of BC Indian Chiefs is urging Pope Francis to reconsider his itinerary during his visit to Canada in July and include a stop at Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc.
The pope will travel to Canada from July 24 to July 30 as part of a reconciliation visit for the Catholic Church’s role in running residential schools. He will make three stops on the tour: Quebec City, Iqaluit and Edmonton.
Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton, who will be the general co-ordinator of the trip, told the Globe and Mail the reason the pope isn’t visiting Tk’emlúps or other locations of probable and confirmed unmarked graves is due to mobility issues. Smith said long trips by car or helicopter between locations are too difficult and that the Vatican requested hub cities be chosen, where the pope can access meaningful sites that are easily accessible in a short amount of time.
In March, Tk’emlups Kúkpi7 (Chief) Rosanne Casimir was part of a delegation that travelled to the Vatican, where she met the pope and handed him a personal invitation to visit the band when he comes to Canada this summer.
Following news of the pope’s July itinerary, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs issued a statement.
“First Nations in British Columbia have a profound sense of disappointment that after all of the efforts to have the ongoing trauma and concern over missing children and unmarked burials at the Catholic operated residential schools, there will be no visit to any of those sites. We urge a reconsideration of the itinerary and the addition of another stop on this important trip.”
Among others to call on the pope to visit Tk'emlups is Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Frank Caputo.