A former student of the Elkhorn Indian Residential School, set up by an Anglican missionary in 1888, has donated $50,000 – $40,000 of which was his entire settlement from the revised residential schools agreement – to an inner city homeless shelter in Winnipeg. “I’m hoping for the best for the people,” William Woodford, 85, told reporters who heard of his generous act and showed up at Siloam Mission when he delivered the bank draft on March 2. “This donation is symbolic because it represents a tragic event in our nation’s history that has contributed to the problems that lead to homelessness, not only in Winnipeg, but across Canada,” said John Mohan, Siloam Mission CEO. “I never cease to be amazed at the great things people do, especially in this case by someone who was wronged so greatly.” Siloam Mission serves hundreds of people, among them generations of residential school abuse survivors and their family members, including some of Mr. Woodford’s own relatives and friends.”The generous gifts we have seen of settlement payments, from some residential school survivors, is a window into the true heart of this matter and the people involved,” said National Anglican Indigenous Bishop Mark MacDonald. “There is a remarkable spirit of reconciliation flowing through so many of the survivors, as these acts of kindness attest. It is quite moving; quite inspiring. We are reminded that the Living Word and the Spirit flow through such acts of bold love and, further, that these forces will ultimately triumph over evil – a message that we affirm every time we confess that Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.” Mr. Woodford, a veteran of the Second World War who lives in Pinaymootang First Nation, said of his experience at the residential school, “Mostly, it was bad. There was too much abuse.” The Anglican Church of Canada Web site, www.anglican.ca. said that, “unlike existing Anglican boarding schools that received direct funding from the Church Missionary Society, the establishment of the Elkhorn School was the sole responsibility of Rev. (Edward Francis) Wilson, working at arm’s length from the diocese of Rupert’s Land.” In a related development, the Anglican Church of Canada, along with other churches, is urging the government to declare the month between May 26 and June 21 (National Aboriginal Day), as a month of healing and reconciliation to help Canadians focus on the 150-year legacy of forced assimilation through the Indian residential schools.
Maylanne Maybee, eco-justice co-ordinator of the Anglican church’s partnerships department, said an ecumenical planning group focused on healing and reconciliation efforts between churches and aboriginal peoples has also suggested that events be planned around June 11, the first anniversary of the government’s apology to residential schools survivors. Among the proposals, she said, are for parishes to ring the church bells at 3 p.m., the time that Prime Minister Stephen Harper delivered the apology, and to spend “a period of silence and reflection.” The bells can be rung again as a call to action, she said. Meanwhile, former students and representatives of churches that are signatory to the revised Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRSSA) gathered for a round table meeting in Ottawa March 23 and agreed to the importance of having a ceremony for the new Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) members who will be appointed. Esther Wesley, indigenous healing co-ordinator of the Anglican church’s partnerships department who attended the meeting, said the view was expressed that the IRSSA is “more than an agreement; it is a spiritual covenant” that involves aboriginal communities across Canada. “Everyone should be involved in honouring” the new commissioners to show support for them and the TRC, participants said. Ms. Wesley said a recent aboriginal elders’ meeting in Calgary also reached a consensus that “they must support the TRC process” because it won’t work without them. The wisdom of elders is revered in aboriginal communities. Ms. Wesley said the round table was also informed by government representatives that the outgoing TRC commissioners, whose resignations take effect June 1, are spending their final weeks writing a report, which will be given to their successors. The new TRC commissioners have yet to be named. The deadline for applications was March 20.