Manitoba Métis leader disappointed Winnipeg not a stop on Papal visit to Canada

A Manitoba Métis leader is disappointed Pope Francis is not planning to make a stop in Winnipeg during his visit to Canada this summer following his apology for the role of the Catholic Church in the residential school system.

The Vatican says Pope Francis plans to visit Edmonton, Quebec City and Iqaluit from July 24th to July 29th. Several members of the delegation had asked for Winnipeg to be a place for the visit, including David Chartrand, president of the Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF).

“It was a disappointment in my heart and for all the Red River Métis on for our nation,” Chartrand said on Friday.

Chartrand was at the Vatican earlier this year with other First Nation leaders, lobbying for an apology from Pope Francis. He was also hoping to have Pope Francis come to Winnipeg, meet with Metis leaders in Manitoba, and bless the grave of Louis Riel.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops said the Vatican selected the three cities based on the length of the trip, the vast size of Canada and the health of the 85-year-old pontiff.

Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton, general co-ordinator of the trip for the conference, said the Pope is limited in how he can travel. He can no longer ride in helicopters and he cannot be in a vehicle for more than an hour. He must also rest in between events.

Chartrand said while disappointed, the MMF will continue to lobby for a Papal visit to Winnipeg and he is optimistic one will happen.

“I’m not giving up,” he said. “There’s a window of opportunity that does exist because he’s extended his time here in Canada a little longer. So maybe he will surprise us all yet. And because, as I said The Métis never give up.”

If you are a former residential school student in distress, or have been affected by the residential school system and need help, you can contact the 24-hour Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419, or the Indian Residential School Survivors Society toll-free line at 1-800-721-0066.

Additional mental-health support and resources for Indigenous people are available here.

With files from The Canadian Press

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