Senator Murray Sinclair, who was chair of the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), praised the Anglican Church of Canada for it efforts to further reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians, but said more needs to be done.
There are “forces at play” in the world that are pushing back against such efforts, Sinclair told guests at the Cathedral Arts Dinner Lecture Series, held at Christ Church Cathedral in Ottawa November 14. He referred to the recent election of Donald Trump as president of the United States, the June 23 vote by Britain to leave the European Union and to “other places that have elected similar kinds of leaders.”
Those forces see reconciliation as a threat to their sense of self, their sense of the right to control and “the right to predetermine the lives of others and to refuse the right of others determining their lives for them,” he said.
“You will not be surprised to hear that it could happen here, too,” Sinclair added. “Reconciliation is not a given. It requires dedication from people like you.”
Sinclair, the first Aboriginal judge in Manitoba, was appointed to the Senate by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in March and sits as an independent.
He told the gathering most of his colleagues in the Senate are “looking for a good party” next year during the 150th anniversary of confederation.
“They think we’re going to have 12 months of constant celebration,” he noted.
But Sinclair said he told them, “At the end of next year, you’re going to wonder what the hell’s going on in this country.” Indigenous people are not going to join the party, said the senator, citing reasons given to the TRC by young people. They include: Indigenous children not receiving an adequate education, high suicide rates, the apprehension of children by the child welfare system that exceeds the number of children taken away and placed in residential schools, and high incarceration rates for crimes that need not result in jail time.
“They will tell you that if things don’t change, there may be actions taken by the young people in future generations that this country is not going to like,” said Sinclair. Pipelines, public infrastructure and other property may be in jeopardy, he said. “That’s what we heard from young people during the course of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and it’s in our report. That’s why we say things need to change.”
Sinclair applauded the work of churches in promoting reconciliation, saying most of the efforts he has seen since the TRC report was issued came from Protestant churches and some Roman Catholic entities. “But the Pope remains silent,” he said. But Sinclair said he remains optimistic. “Sources tell me we might be hearing something, relatively soon,” he said. In Bolivia in July 2015, Pope Francis apologized for sins and “offences” committed by the Catholic church against Indigenous peoples during the colonial-era conquest of the Americas. “I think that gesture forebodes what we might be hearing in this country,” Sinclair said.
The senator also applauded the Anglican Church of Canada for taking a leading role among churches in repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery, calling it a “magnificent gesture.” General Synod passed a resolution in
Halifax in 2010 repudiating the doctrine, which deals with non-Indigenous government claims to legitimacy over Indigenous lands and territories.
He acknowledged the church’s “effort and energy” in educating Anglican congregations about the work the church did “to contribute to this problem and accepting responsibility for that.” The “most significant” apology bythe Anglican church, he said, in an apparent reference to the church’s formal apology delivered in 1993 by then-primate Michael Peers, “was heartfelt, it was generous, it was kind, it was true and it was meaningful for those who heard it.”
Sinclair’s talk was preceded by a traditional Algonquin buffet prepared and served by Wawatay Catering of Maniwaki, Que.
Cathedral Arts celebrates and promotes the visual and performing arts by offering concerts, dramatic productions, educational dinner lectures and exhibits.