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Feds to provide more than $35M to Indigenous communities during Papal visit

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OTTAWA -

The federal government says it will provide more than US$35 million during the papal visit to Canada to support Indigenous communities, organizations and residential schools survivors.

Pope Francis is set to travel to Alberta, Quebec and Nunavut from July 24 to 29. The papal visit is to include public and private events with an emphasis on Indigenous participation.

The Pope is expected to deliver an apology for the Roman Catholic Church's role in residential schools during the trip, building on sentiments expressed earlier this year during an Indigenous delegation to the Vatican.

Indigenous Services Canada and Crown-Indigenous Relations are putting up $30.5 million of the funds for community-led activities, ceremonies and travel for survivors.

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller has previously said the federal government would support survivors who want to attend and planning was taking place to avoid a “logistical nightmare.”

Ottawa said another $3 million will support Indigenous groups in the three regions where Pope Francis will spend time.

The papal visit is scheduled to start in Edmonton before Francis joins survivors at the Ermineskin Indian Residential School in the community of Maskwacis south of the city. Other events in Alberta include attending a local Indigenous church and a large mass at Commonwealth Stadium, home of the Edmonton Elks CFL football team.

The Pope is set to travel to Quebec City mid-week where there will also be a large mass the public can attend. He is to end the journey in Iqaluit where he will meet with residential school survivors and attend a public community event.

The federal government has also committed $2 million to interpret the events and comments from Pope Francis into Indigenous languages.

It's expected Francis will deliver an apology for the Roman Catholic Church's role in residential schools.

An estimated 150,000 Indigenous children were forced to attend residential schools over a century, and the Roman Catholic Church ran about 60 per cent of the institutions.

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The Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program has a hotline to help residential school survivors and their relatives suffering trauma invoked by the recall of past abuse. The number is 1-866-925-4419.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 13, 2022.

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