Media updates from CCCB: December 7, 2021
After careful assessment of the uncertainty and potential health risks surrounding international travel amid the recent spread of the Omicron variant, the Canadian Bishops, Assembly of First Nations, Métis National Council, and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami have jointly decided to reschedule a delegation to the Vatican in December 2021 to the earliest opportunity in 2022.
The decision to postpone was a heartbreaking one, made after careful consultation with delegates, family members, community leaders, public health officials and the leadership of each of the three National Indigenous Organizations. Particularly for many elderly delegates as well as those who live in remote communities, the risk of infection and the fluid nature of the evolving global situation presents too great a threat at this time.
We take comfort in the desire, conveyed to us by the Holy See, that the safety of the delegation should inform any decision to move forward. It is also important to note that the delegation is postponed not cancelled.
Currently, the world’s health experts are still learning about the transmissibility of the Omicron variant. As more information becomes available, we will continue to assess the feasibility of future travel plans, based on guidance from the Canadian government and relevant international authorities.
Our shared commitment to walking together towards healing and reconciliation remains strong. We understand that the Holy See is very much committed to rescheduling this visit in the new year and we look forward to the opportunity for Indigenous Elders, knowledge keepers, residential school survivors, and youth to participate in private meetings with Pope Francis.
For further information:
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops – firstname.lastname@example.org
Assembly of First Nations – email@example.com
Métis National Council – firstname.lastname@example.org
Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami – email@example.com
Media updates: December 2, 2021
Three Alberta indigenous leaders will be among the delegates traveling to Vatican City this upcoming December to meet with His Holiness Pope Francis as part of national healing and reconciliation efforts.
“We as an indigenous community, we never gave up the need to heal,” said Chief Wilton Littlechild, who was chosen as a delegate by the Assembly of First Nations. “We are doing this and we are going. I think that is a willingness on our part …. We are going and that should be a message within itself. We are willing to work with this and with you. Please help us now. We are putting our hand out, meet halfway and let's shake hands. It is really important to show good intent.”
Chief Littlechild, of the Ermineskin First Nation, is a former Treaty Six Nations grand chief and former commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Chief Littlechild has worked with the United Nations for more than 40 years advocating for indigenous peoples. He is a survivor of residential school.
Two Alberta delegates, Angelina (Angie) Crerar and Gary Gagnon, were chosen by the Metis Nation.
Angie is a Métis knowledge keeper and elder, from Grande Prairie. Angie has volunteered for more than 50 years. She has been a board member of the Grande Prairie Friendship Centre. She is president of the Metis Local 1990. She started an Elders Caring Shelter, the first of its kind in the country. She is a survivor of residential school.
Gary Gagnon is a Métis from St. Albert (Metis Settlement). For more than 20 years, he has been employed with Edmonton Catholic Schools under the Indigenous Learning Services Program as a cultural facilitator. In 2018, Gary was elected as vice-president, Region 4 Metis Nation of Alberta
Twenty five to 30 First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Elders, knowledge keepers, residential school survivors, and youth will meet with the Holy Father at the Vatican from December 17-20, 2021, accompanied by a small group of Canadian bishops.
Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith, president of the Alberta and Northwest Territories bishops, and Calgary Bishop William McGrattan, vice-president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, will also travel to Vatican City.
The delegates represent the Assembly of First Nations, the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) and the Métis National Council (MNC). Further details of the delegation will continue to be made available through these organizations as well as the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB).
About the Alberta Delegation
Chief Wilton Littlechild
Wilton Littlechild IPC CM AOE MSC QC, known as Willie Littlechild, is an indigenous lawyer, advocate, residential school survivor and Cree chief who served as Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief, as Grand Chief of the Treaty Six and as a member of Parliament.
Littlechild was born in 1944 in Maskwacis, Alberta, raised by his grandparents. He was brought to Indian residential school at the age of six, spending 14 years in the system until his completion of high school.
Littlechild graduated with a Bachelor of Physical Education degree in 1967, then obtained a master's degree in physical education from the University of Alberta in 1975. He is the first Treaty Indian from Alberta to obtain a law degree, completed at the University of Alberta in 1976. That year, the Maskwacis Cree Nations bestowed on him with a headdress as an honorary chief and endowed him with his grandfather's Cree name, Mahigan Pimoteyw, which means Wolf Walker.
Chief Littlechild was a member of the 1977 Indigenous delegation to the United Nations and worked on the UN and OAS Declarations on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. He continues to work with the United Nations to this day. He was a Member of Parliament for Wetaskiwin from 1988 to 1993.
Chief Littlechild is a member of the Ermineskin Cree Nation. In 2009, Littlechild was appointed as a commissioner to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada where he served for six and a half years.
He has been inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame. He has received the lndspire Award for law and justice, Pearson Peace Medal; four Centennial medals, the Order of Canada, the Order of Sport, three Queen's medals, and received six university doctorate degrees.
Chief Littlechild and his wife Helen are most proud of their children Teddi, Neil, Megan, and Angel Tina, three adopted children, nine grandchildren and three great-granddaughters.
Gary Gagnon is a Metis from St. Albert (Metis Settlement). For more than 20 years Gary has been employed with Edmonton Catholic Schools under the Indigenous Learning Services Program as cultural facilitator.
Gagnon was seconded with the Archdiocese of Edmonton as coordinator of the Office of Indigenous relations in 2016 for a two-year term. In 2018, Gary was elected as vice-president, Region 4 Metis Nation of Alberta. Gagnon is a trustee for Lac Ste. Anne Pilgrimage.
He sits as an Indigenous Advisor the Canadian Catholic Indigenous Council. He performs prayer and smudging rituals as Indigenous cultural volunteer with Sacred Heart of First Nations Peoples church in Edmonton and Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Enoch.
Angie (Mercredi) Crerar IS 85. She was born July 3, 1936 in Fort Resolution, NWT. In 1947, she was taken from her home and placed in residential school at Fort Resolution. For over 10 years, her Metis traditions, language, heritage, childhood and name were taken from her. She was known as number 6.
Angie left the residential School when she was 17 years old. She and her late husband Doug Crerar have 11 children, 24 grandchildren, and 16 great grandchildren.
Angie has volunteered for more than 50 years, celebrating her Metis heritage. She has been a board member of the Grande Prairie Friendship Centre. She is president of the Metis Local 1990. She started, fundraised and helped build an Elders Caring Shelter, the first of its kind in the country.
In 1987, Angie was named Volunteer of the Year. She received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Esquao Awards, the Centennial Award from the City of Grande Prairie, a Caring Canadian award from the Governor General, Hometown Hero award from the City of Grande Prairie and the Queens Diamond Jubilee Medal. In 2014, she was awarded with a city park in her name, called the Angie Crerar Park.
Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith
Richard W. Smith was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia on April 28, 1959. He studied at St. Mary's University and at the Atlantic School of Theology in Halifax. Ordained to the priesthood on May 23, 1987, he pursued further studies in theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, earning a licence in 1993 and a doctorate in 1998.
Pope John Paul II appointed him as Bishop of Pembroke, Ont. on April 27, 2002. He was formally installed as the seventh Archbishop of Edmonton on May 1, 2007, the Feast Day of St. Joseph the Worker. Archbishop Smith serves as president of the Catholic Bishops of Alberta and the Northwest Territories, and he is past president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Calgary Bishop William McGrattan
William Terrence McGrattan was born on September 19, 1956 in London, Ont. He received his undergraduate degree in chemical engineering at the University of Western Ontario, followed by a Master of Divinity from St. Peter’s Seminary in London. He was ordained to the priesthood on May 2, 1987.
Bishop McGrattan continued his studies in theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, where he received a licentiate in fundamental moral theology in 1992. He served on the faculty of St. Peter’s Seminary in London from 1997 until 2009.
In 2009, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI appointed Bishop McGrattan as Auxiliary Bishop of Toronto. His appointment as the 12th bishop of the Diocese of Peterborough, Ont, took place on April 8, 2014. On January 4, 2017, Bishop McGrattan was appointed eighth bishop of the Diocese of Calgary, and was installed on February 27, 2017. Bishop McGrattan is the vice-president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers