The Cree community of Chisasibi has decided not to send an official delegation to Quebec, as part of the papal visit, preferring to focus on “collective healing” as part of an activity that will take place in James Bay.
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The Cree Nation Council of Chisasibi said in a statement that this decision is one of “compassion, respect and love” for residential school survivors and their loved ones, as well as for the missing.
“This week we will be focusing on our collective strength and healing at the Fort George Residential School Annual Gathering,” Chisasibi Cree Nation Council Chief Daisy House said in a statement.
James Bay is the Cree territory where the majority of residential schools were located. For the community, these are sites “that constantly remind us of our pain and our traumas”, can we read in this same press release.
The board decided that this important healing step would be done “at home”.
“For over a year, we've had a lot of difficult conversations about digging these sites, which are ongoing. The Chisasibi Eeyouch are already feeling raw and difficult emotions, and this week will trigger more pain. Our hope is that survivors and former students will be safe during this papal visit, surrounded by family and loved ones, in the comfort of their community,” House said.
The council reiterated its wish that Pope Francis direct the Catholic Church to cooperate fully with First Nations to gain access to the historical documents relating to the residential schools that it still holds.