The World

Canada: Going to the peripheries. To the North Pole and the secularist desert

Edmonton (Alberta province), Iqaluit (Nunavut territory) and Quebec City are the three places in Canada where the Pope will go.

Fernando Emilio Mignone-May 20, 2022-Reading time: 2 minutes
canada indigenous peoples pope francisco

Pope Francis will come to the geographical and existential peripheries from July 24 to 29, when he travels to secularized Canada. Interviewed on television in Quebec City, Cardinal Gérald Lacroix, Archbishop of Quebec City and Primate of Canada, said that "even if he comes in a wheelchair, we will welcome him with open arms". 

It has been confirmed that the three cities where Francis will go are Edmonton (Alberta province), Iqaluit (Nunavut territory) and Quebec City. The last papal visit to the secularist French-speaking province was in 1984. 

The dates are around July 26, the feast of St. Anne, very dear to the Canadian Indians. The grandmother of Christ has been venerated by them for centuries at Sainte Anne de Beaupré, near Quebec City, and for 133 years at Lac Sainte Anne, 100 km west of the capital of Edmonton.

Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith will be the coordinator of the visit. He said May 13 that "the visit will be an opportunity for the pope, here in Canada, to listen and dialogue with indigenous peoples, express his sincere closeness to them and address the impact of residential schools." He said indigenous traditions and ceremonies will be essential during the papal visit. He is admired that the pope is coming given his health, having, for example, cancelled his trip to Lebanon in June. 

Iqaluit did not exist as an inhabited locality until World War II, when the United States established an air base there. In 1999 Canada created the National Territory of Nunavut, with two million km2 reaching the North Pole, but with only forty thousand inhabitants. Most of them are Inuit (formerly called Eskimos) and Christians. Its capital, Iqaluit, with eight thousand inhabitants (half of them Inuit), is located in Frobisher Bay, southeast of the huge Baffin Island. 

Following Jesus' advice, the Pope will cast his nets in Iqaluit, which means "place of many fish". It is the hottest month of the year, when the temperature ranges from 4 to 12 degrees Celsius. Francis will surely greet the Governor General of Canada, Mary Simon, the first indigenous governor of this country (i.e. the representative of Queen Elizabeth of England). Simon's mother was Inuk (singular: Inuit is plural) and Simon grew up in that culture, as an Anglican. On April 1, she thanked Pope Francis for asking for forgiveness that day at the Vatican from indigenous Canadians.

For more information background you can read Go to the periphery of the Canadian Great North; Canada's "missing" people; Pope to travel to Canada to meet with indigenous people; my interview with Montreal historian Jacques Rouillard; "Let's walk together, arrivederci Canada": Pope's historic apology to indigenous Canadians.

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