Archbishop of Canterbury plans return visit to Canada

Archbishop Justin Welby at Lambeth Palace. Photo: Alex Baker Photography
Published February 10, 2022

Meetings with Indigenous leaders to focus on reconciliation

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby will visit Canada from April 29 to May 3, accepting an invitation from Archbishop Linda Nicholls, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, and National Indigenous Archbishop Mark MacDonald.

The senior archbishop of the Church of England and symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion will meet with Indigenous Anglicans and Indigenous leaders in three communities: Prince Albert, Sask., Six Nations of the Grand River and Toronto.

During his visit Welby will hear from residential school survivors, visit Indigenous communities and share in the Anglican Church of Canada’s work of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples,  a news release from Lambeth Palace said, describing reconciliation as a major focus of Welby’s primacy.

It noted that the presence of the Church of England, British colonists and Crown representatives in treaty negotiations and subsequent partnership with the federal government “are part of the legacy of colonialism that contributed to residential schools and to abuse and cultural deprivation. A significant purpose behind Archbishop Justin’s visit is to recognize and repent of where those relationships have done damage rather than good, particularly with Indigenous peoples.”

Nicholls said the invitation to Welby emerged out of conversations between herself and the national Indigenous archbishop regarding the role of Anglican missionaries and clergy in forging relationships with Indigenous people prior to the setting up of colonial government in Canada.

“The reality is that Indigenous people saw those Crown relationships having a deeply spiritual aspect because of the presence of those clergy with the Crown representatives,” Nicholls said.

“In the making of the treaties for instance, the presence of clergy indicated a spiritual covenant—not just a legal covenant, not just a juridical one. For some Indigenous people, the breaking of those treaties is a breaking of a sacred obligation.”

MacDonald said that to this day, many Indigenous people look to the Crown, the Church of England and in particular the Archbishop of Canterbury “as a guarantee of the treaties and of their ongoing rights in the Canadian project.”

“It is clear that the many people who do not understand the horrors of colonization will see a new facet of this matter through the lens of Anglicanism’s primary spiritual leader,” MacDonald said.

“It is clear, from our conversations, that the Archbishop [of Canterbury] is able to see, from his vantage points, aspects of the Canadian situation that many Canadians have found difficult to understand in the haze of distorted narratives, the shame of Canada’s misdeeds in the past, and the many ways that non-Indigenous peoples feel their self-interest is threatened by justice for Indigenous peoples and a fair and equal chance for all Canadians to have a just and prosperous life.”

MacDonald said he was convinced Welby’s visit would have a great impact on Canada and linked it to “a critical and vital advocacy of Indigenous rights in the Anglican Communion, spiritual home to millions of Indigenous people around the world.”

Welby last visited Canada in November 2018, to meet with the primates of North and South America. He also visited in 2014, when he met with then-primate Fred Hiltz and discussed issues including reconciliation, human sexuality, and same-sex marriage.

Note: This article has been modified from an earlier version to include additional quotes from church leaders, and to correct a factual error regarding Welby’s previous visit.


  • Matthew Puddister

    Matthew Puddister (aka Matt Gardner) is a staff writer for the Anglican Journal. Most recently, Puddister worked as corporate communicator for the Anglican Church of Canada, a position he held since Dec. 1, 2014. He previously served as a city reporter for the Prince Albert Daily Herald. A former resident of Kingston, Ont., Puddister has a degree in English literature from Queen’s University and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Western Ontario. He also supports General Synod's corporate communications.

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