Response of the Churches … Canada

Matthew Stevens writes this …

All My Relations:

No doubt many of you will have already read the Response of the Churches to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, that was presented in Ottawa on June 2, 2015, however there are likely others who haven’t as yet. The document was prepared by the Anglican Church of Canada, The Presbyterian Church in Canada, the Roman Catholic Entities Parties to the Settlement Agreement, The United Church of Canada, and the Jesuits of English Canada, as a response to the findings and Calls to Action issued by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada …

I am sharing the text here because …

No, many of us from around the world have not read this response and yet …

Yes, we are all relations.

This is not my country, though mine carries the same shadows and the people from whom I am descended share the same penitence, and so I publish without comment, except to commend it to all our hearts both for the sake of memory and for the sake of the future.     Maren

Response of the Churches to the
Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada
Ottawa – June 2, 2015
The Anglican Church of Canada, The Presbyterian Church in Canada, the RomanCatholic Entities Parties to the Settlement Agreement, The United Church ofCanada and the Jesuits of English Canada make the following statement inresponse to the findings and Calls to Action issued by the Truth andReconciliation Commission of Canada.

It is with gratitude and humility that we are here today to speak together as
representatives of churches that participated in the operation of Indian Residential
Schools. We are grateful to the Commissioners and staff of the Truth and
Reconciliation Commission of Canada for the commitment with which they have
carried out their mandate, and we are humbled in the knowledge that we continue
to share a responsibility to ensure that the task of reconciliation does not end today.

Beginning in the 19th century and continuing until the late 1960’s, our churches
were partners with the Government of Canada in running Indian Residential
Schools. Notwithstanding the good intent and care of many who worked in the
Schools, it is clear that Indian Residential Schools, in policy and in practice, were an
assault on Indigenous families, culture, language and spiritual traditions, and that
great harm was done. We continue to acknowledge and regret our part in that
legacy. Those harmed were children, vulnerable, far from their families and communities.
The sexual, physical, and emotional abuse they suffered is well-documented.

Over the past six years we have, along with the Commission, listened to the
experiences of those former students, who are no longer children. They are adults,
some very old, who tell heart-breaking stories. We have heard them speak of
wounds so deep that healing could not happen, and of damage visited upon their
own children. We have also heard them witness to their resilience, and that of their
communities, which has made possible many healing journeys. We have heard of
friendships formed in the Residential Schools in which students supported one
another, sometimes for the rest of their lives. Perhaps most humbling of all, we have
heard survivors speak with enormous grace and generosity of teachers and others
whose kindness offered some respite from the pain and humiliation that so deeply
marked the overall experience of the schools.

We are grateful to the survivors, whose courageous witness has touched the heart of
the life of our churches. There have been apologies from our churches, yet we know
that our apologies are not enough. And so we are grateful as well to the
Commissioners of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for their findings and
for their clarity about our continuing responsibilities.

We acknowledge and welcome the specific calls to action that offer direction to the
churches in our continuing commitment to reconciliation. In particular, we are
committed to respect Indigenous spiritual traditions in their own right. As
individual churches and in shared interfaith and ecumenical initiatives – for
example through Kairos, through interfaith groups, and through the Canadian
Council of Churches – we will continue to foster learning about and awareness of the
reality and legacy of the residential schools, the negative impact of such past
teachings as the Doctrine of Discovery, and the new ways forward found in places,
such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We
will continue our commitment to financial support for community-controlled
initiatives in healing, language and cultural revitalization, education and
relationship-building, and self-determination.

We welcome the Commissioners’ call to the parties to the Indian Residential School
Settlement Agreement for a new Covenant of Reconciliation that would renew and
expand our shared commitment to the continuing work of reconciliation, and invite
others into that work, including new Canadians, who, while they were not part of
the historic injustice, are now part of a country in which understanding and
addressing that injustice is a national priority for all Canadians.

We also welcome wider Calls to Action that include our members as citizens and
residents of Canada. There is a crucial need for the kinds of public and governmental
initiatives that the Commissioners identify, including the establishment of a
National Council of Reconciliation that would continue to hold this work before
parliament and the Canadian people.
We recognize the need for equity in access to education and health care, and the
critical need for new and culturally-appropriate ways of ensuring the welfare of
children who are at risk.
And we enthusiastically support the call for teaching about the history and legacy of
the residential schools in all Canadian schools, and commit ourselves to ensuring
that the teaching ministry of our churches also acknowledges these realities.

Above all, we welcome the Commissioners’ Calls to Action as providing the basis for
a wide and transformative conversation among Canadians about the better future
we intend to foster, not just for Indigenous peoples, but for all of us who long to live
in a society grounded in right relationships and equity.
We will continue to share in the work of healing and reconciliation, respectfully
following the leadership of Indigenous communities and leaders, and to offer
leadership among non-Indigenous Canadians where that is appropriate.
May the Creator guide us as we continue in the work of healing, justice, and right
relations for the generations it will take to address that harm “and guide this
country on a new and different path”. (Remembering the Children prayer, 2008)

Representatives of the Church entities making the joint statement:

Archbishop Fred Hiltz
The Anglican Church of Canada

The Rev. Dr. Stephen Farris
The Presbyterian Church in Canada

Archbishop Gerard Pettipas
Catholic Entities Parties to the Indian Residential School Settlement

The Right Reverend Gary Paterson
The United Church of Canada

Peter Bisson, SJ
Jesuits of English Canada

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6 Responses to Response of the Churches … Canada

  1. sugruerm says:

    Making an effort to right wrongs, even if long after when due, is heartening. The world needs to know of positive Christian action. Cultural misunderstandings and wrongs imposed by colonisers or victors are endemic. Thank you for posting it.

  2. Maren says:

    Amen, Rosalie!

  3. Kathy says:

    An FYI…a call to revoke the “Doctrine of Discovery” here in the United States is on the docket at the upcoming General Synod of the UCC in Cleveland…along with some continually needed protest of Chief Wahoo (the cartoonish and offensive “mascot” of the Cleveland Indians).
    I learned this at the WI Conference UCC Annual Meeting just this past weekend.

  4. R. Matthew Stevens says:

    Thank you Maren for sharing this letter with your readers. With the final report of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission (TRC) the phase of truth seeking has essentially been concluded. That’s not to suggest for a moment that all of the truth has been heard, only that official listening has ended. We now move into the the more difficult phase of living into reconciliation, for which there is no designated process to follow, and which will only be judge as successful on the basis of societies actions – not their fine words. Presently I’m not hearing much of an appetite for reconciliation on behalf of either the government or the majority of the citizens. Despite the public chest-beating there seems to be an undercurrent notion that the Native community received an official apology, and five years worth of the TRC travelling roadshow, what more do you want? Let’s get back to things as usual.
    There is a real opportunity for the churches (both in Canada and in the United States) to take the lead in fostering genuine reconciliation, but that window of opportunity is not large, and it’s here right now. As complicit as the churches were in the tragedy of Indian Residential Schools, they can now be instrumental in openly asking the Native community what reconciliation would look like, and how do we achieve it. Twenty-seven years ago this summer the United Church of Canada offered it’s first apology to the Native community, and wisely the elders received it – but didn’t accept it. In essence they said to the church, we will judge your apology by your actions not your words. That is now the same position that non-Natives as a whole occupy. The letter of the combined churches is very fine, but let us now see your actions. Thank you again.

    • Maren says:

      It was Jesus’s brother James, pastor in Jerusalem, who suggested in his letter that faith could more easily be judged by our actions. Not much has changed!

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