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From Angus Reid Institute

Pope’s apology a step towards reconciliation

Three-in-five say more investigation into legacy of residential schools needed

August 11, 2022 – A new study from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute finds a majority of Canadians view Pope Francis July visit to Canada – dubbed the “penitential pilgrimage” – and the apology he offered on behalf of members of the Catholic Church for their role in the administration of residential schools, as a step towards reconciliation.

Overall, three-in-five (59%) say this, while one-in-three (32%) feel the apology does nothing to move reconciliation forward. Respondents are twice as likely to view it was a “small step” (40%) than a “significant” one (18%).

Among a sample of Indigenous respondents, opinions are similar but more muted, with 54 per cent feeling this was a contribution to reconciliation, and 36 per cent feeling the gesture offers no real practical impact.

Pope Francis undertook the summer visit to Alberta, Quebec, and Nunavut to offer his apologies to Indigenous communities.

Between 1833 and 1996, an estimated 150,000 Indigenous children were forced to attend residential schools in Canada, more than 60 per cent of the schools were run by the Catholic Church.

The apology itself is largely viewed as sincere by those who followed the trip and Pope Francis’ speeches. Two-thirds (64%) of those who paid attention to the visit say the pope was sincere in his lamentation of the “evil” perpetrated by some members of the church during this period. One-quarter (24%) of Canadians disagreed that the apology was genuine.

Asked who bears most responsibility for the residential school system, half of Canadians (52%) blame the federal government, Christian churches, and society at the time equally for creating it and allowing it to persist. One-in-five say the federal government bears most blame (21%), while a similar number primarily blame the church (18%).

Do you think the apology is a meaningful step towards reconciliation

More Key Findings

More is needed

For three-in-five (58%) Canadians, the path of reconciliation requires further ground to tread. This group believes the country needs to continue to interrogate the history of residential schools – something Pope Francis called for in his public statements. Two-in-five (42%) Canadians including half of men of all ages (49%) say “focusing on the future” is the way to proceed.

Further Investigation

On the question of how to move forward, women are significantly more likely than men to say that further investigation into the history of residential schools must be undertaken (65% to 51%).

Indigenous Canadians

Indigenous respondents are more likely (64%) to say that investigations into the past should be the focus going forward, compared to visible minorities (58%) and Caucasians (58%).

Survey Methodology

The Angus Reid Institute conducted an online survey from Aug. 8-10, 2022 among a representative randomized sample of 2,279 Canadian adults who are members of Angus Reid Forum. For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of +/- 2.0 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding. The survey was self-commissioned and paid for by ARI.

For detailed results by age, gender, region, education, and other demographics, click here.

For detailed results by how closely respondents were following the visit and their views on Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples, click here.

To read the full report, including detailed tables and methodology, click here

To read the questionnaire in English and French, click here.


Photo: Nacho Arteaga via UnSplash

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From the Angus Reid Institute, Canada’s non-profit foundation committed to independent research.

For detailed breakdown of the results, visit

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