Bishop Terence Finlay of Toronto says he was unaware using the term “cultural genocide” in a pastoral letter read to Toronto parishes in September might raise controversy.
The pastoral letter suggests that with the new millennium approaching, parishioners should spend time reflecting, learning, justice-making and celebrating. As part of this, he wrote that within the Anglican Church, “we live with the history of cultural genocide imposed on native peoples in residential schools.”
“It’s unfortunate to use a phrase that causes difficulty,” Bishop Finlay said in an interview. “On the other hand, it’s a good phrase. If I’d had it drawn to my attention that it was a phrase that was not appropriate, I would have made inquiries first ? I don’t want to offend but at the same time I put it in the letter so I stand by it. If I had known it was as loaded as it is with different interpretations I would have considered that, but it’s there.”
Although there were no residential schools in the Diocese of Toronto, former students at the Mohawk Indian Residential School in Brantford, Ont., have filed a lawsuit against the federal government and churches, including the Diocese of Huron, alleging cultural genocide, among other things.