(This article first appeared in the April 2015 issue of the Anglican Journal.)
It’s almost seven feet when it’s rolled out full length! Connected by a dotted line through a ribbon of landscape from one end to the other are 72 entries by way of date and significant development that tell the story of “Indigenous Peoples and The Anglican Church of Canada.” Half of the entries cover 140 years and the other half the last 20 years.
The first half begins with the 1452 decree by European leaders that “non-Christian nations have no right to their lands and sovereignty in the face of claims by Christian sovereigns.” It tracks the implications of the Doctrine of Discovery, the federal government policy of assimilation through the Indian residential schools, and the 1920 decree making attendance in these schools compulsory for all Indigenous children. Twenty-five years later, the church’s National Commission on Indian Work raised serious concerns about the living conditions in many of the schools and about the forbidding of the children to learn the history and culture of their own people. The 1969 Hendry Report called the church to a new course of action in its relations with Indigenous Peoples based on “solidarity, equality and mutual respect.”
The second half begins with the 1993 apology by Archbishop Michael Peers. That entry is followed by 35 more, reflecting commitments to healing and reconciliation. The last entry is the 2014 establishing of the Primate’s Commission to educate the church on the Doctrine of Discovery, considering the question, “What does reconciliation really mean?” and calling us to renewed solidarity with Indigenous Peoples in their quest for justice concerning matters of land, health care, housing and education.
Appropriately entitled “An Evolving Relationship,” this timeline was offered as a gesture of reconciliation on behalf of our church at the Edmonton National Event of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission last year.
This entire endeavour was the vision of Esther Wesley (co-ordinator, Anglican Fund for Healing and Reconciliation) and the work of many hands across several departments—Indigenous Ministries, Archives, Public Witness for Social and Ecological Justice, and Communications and Information Resources. It records moments of pain and shame, remorse and apology, reconciliation and renewal, healing and hope. The relationship continues to evolve in the spirit of the biblical text quoted in the last panel: “But we wait for what God has promised: new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness will be at home” (2 Peter 3:13, Good News Translation).
View it at: www.anglican.ca/relationships/trc/timeline or www.anglican.ca/relationships/files/2014/05/timeline.pdf.
Printed timelines are available free to parishes, while supplies last. To order, please email [email protected].
Archbishop Fred Hiltz is primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.