ROME –Prime Minister Justin Trudeau plans to raise reconciliation with indigenous peoples, the global fight against climate change and the importance of religious and cultural diversity when he meets with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Monday.
There, he will also ask the pontiff to issue a formal apology in Canada for the role of the Catholic Church in the residential school system.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission included the demand for a papal apology – to survivors, their families and communities – among the 94 recommendations in its report on the dark history and legacy of residential schools.
The Liberal government has promised to act on all of them.
Trudeau, who is religious, is also expected to discuss the Catholic community in Canada.
Trudeau, in Rome this week following his participation at the NATO and G7 summits, wants to promote trade and other ties with Italy, including the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the European Union.
U.S. President Donald Trump met the pope at the Vatican last week.
Monday morning, the prime minister will part in an event with the soccer team, A.S. Roma.
His wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, has joined him on this part of the trip and the couple were to celebrate their wedding anniversary with a private dinner in Rome on Sunday evening.
On Sunday, Trudeau appealed to the heart of the country by visiting Amatrice, a tiny town still struggling to recover from a devastating earthquake.
“It’s an opportunity to share our thoughts, our condolences, our sympathies, but also demonstrate our resolve to accompany our friends in this difficult time,” Trudeau said Sunday as he stood below a clock tower, the only structure standing on a street lined with rubble.
That clock is stopped at 3:36 – the time in the morning the 6.2-magnitude quake hit the area in central Italy about 100 kilometres northeast of Rome on August 24, 2016. Some 300 people were killed, including one Canadian.
Many of them were children, and signs of their presence, including an illustrated cloth book and a inflatable pool toy, could be seen among the rocks, dust and other rubble piled high.
Efforts to rebuild the town, which includes many heritage buildings from medieval times, have been moving slowly.
The Italian-Canadian community has been trying to bring more attention to that fact, raising money to help pay for things like medical vehicles needed to navigate the mountainous terrain.
Those efforts got a boost May 12 when Trudeau appeared at a fundraiser that also featured Sergio Marchionne, the CEO of Fiat Chrysler who was born in Italy but went to school in Canada.
Trudeau announced there that the Canadian government would match up to $2 million in donations to the Italy Earthquake Relief Fund.
That drew sharp criticism from Conservative MP Maxime Bernier, who was nearing the end of the leadership race he ultimately lost to Andrew Scheer.
At the time, Bernier took to Twitter to say that he loves Italy, but it is a rich country that can afford to rebuild without money from Canadian taxpayers, which he argued should have gone to help more victims of the floods in Quebec and eastern Ontario.
The money will go toward humanitarian aid in the area, which is still experiencing tremors.
The prime minister arrived in the town via an Italian government helicopter and he was greeted warmly with a long embrace by the local mayor, Sergio Pirozzi.
In Amatrice, the Trudeaus surveyed the damage while wearing hard hats, spoke to residents, emergency responders and others working to rebuild the town.
They also laid a bouquet of flowers at a memorial to the victims.
Former prime minister Stephen Harper, who issued a residential schools apology on behalf of the Canadian government in 2008, did not raise the issue directly during a 10-minute audience with Pope Francis two years ago. Harper did mention the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
In 2009, the previous pope, Benedict XVI, did express “sorrow” on behalf of the Catholic Church for the “deplorable conduct” by some members of the church in their treatment of indigenous children in residential schools.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission report said this did not go far enough, especially since it was not made in public.