rafe arnott/metro vancouver
Walter Lynxleg protests the Catholic Church’s historical treatment of aboriginals yesterday by GM Place, where 15,000 attended a ceremony to honour a B.C. woman recognized by the Pope.
An aboriginal grandmother received one of the highest honours the Catholic Church bestows on a layperson at GM Place yesterday, while residential-school survivors and their supporters protested the ceremony outside. Shirley Leon was awarded the Benemerenti Pontifical Medal at a mass celebrating the centennial anniversary of the Archdiocese of Vancouver. Leon retired this year as a member of the Canadian Catholic Church’s Aboriginal Council for Reconciliation, where she consulted with priests and aboriginal people about reconciliation after the closing of residential schools. Outside, Ricky Lavallie claimed he saw his older brother killed at a residential school, and the church is shirking its responsibilities by hiding behind the government and letting it take the fall. Kevin Annett, spokesperson for the Friends And Relatives of the Disappeared, said it’s outrageous the Catholic Church is “posing as a friend of Native people.” “(The medal) is a pat on the head (from the church) for helping improve their image to natives,” he said. “Reconciliation is just a word. It’s the action that counts.” Annett said there can be no reconciliation until the church gives proper burials to the native children who died at residential schools and “surrenders those responsible for their death.”