Grand Council Chief John Beaucage says the "expression of sorrow" issued by Pope Benedict XVI about the Catholic Church's role in operating Indian Residential Schools should seen as a foundation on which a reconciliation process can be built.
"We want to see the Bishops, dioceses and Roman Catholic communities and churches in Canada embrace their responsibility and move towards reconciliation with First Nations," said Beaucage, who represents 42 Anishinabek Nation communities in Ontario.
"I'd like to see the impacts of the Papal apology be recognized and addressed, not only at the Vatican, but within Canada."
Beaucage said that, if elected National Chief at the Assembly of First Nations assembly in Calgary this July he intends to meet with the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops to determine a course of action to build on Wednesday's apology issued by the Vatican following a private audience with an AFN delegation.
The Anishinabek Nation leader congratulated National Chief Phil Fontaine for his advocacy on behalf of residential school survivors. Fontaine said Benedict's statement "closes the book" on the issue of apologies for residential school survivors.
Apologies for their roles in operating the network of 130 residential schools in Canada have previously been offered by the Anglican, Presbyterian and United churches, and last June Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued an apology on behalf of the government of Canada.
Beaucage said Fontaine, himself a survivor of residential school abuse, has left a historic legacy in making Canadians aware of the horrific impact residential schools have had on First Nations communities.
"Now it's important that we build on his efforts by ensuring they are used as building blocks for the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission," Beaucage added.
The Anishinabek Nation established the Union of Ontario Indians as its political advocate and secretariat in 1949. The Union of Ontario Indians is the oldest political organization in Ontario and can trace its roots back to the Confederacy of Three Fires that have existed long before European contact.
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