Richmond Hill, Ont.
In a ceremony introduced by Cree actor, activist and parliamentarian Tina Keeper, the Primate’s Council of Elders and Youth was officially commissioned before General Synod members Sunday, July 10.
Named to the council were: Archdeacon Sidney Black, Judith Moses, Canon Laverne Jacobs, Danielle Black, Aaron Sault and the Rev. Leigh Kern.
“We ask you, creator God, to instil their hearts with the seven sacred teachings: love, humility, respect, courage, honesty and truth, wisdom and generosity as they take on this ministry,” prayed Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, before asking each to confirm they accepted the call and then, finally, anointing the forehead of each with holy oil.
The council, announced by the primate in March, will be charged with making sure the Anglican Church of Canada abides by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples—the 48th of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action.
Archdeacon Black, of the Blackfoot Nation and diocese of Calgary, has served on the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP) for many years.
Moses, a Mohawk, works with an agency providing educational programming for Aboriginal children and is now a board member of The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund.
Jacobs, of the Ojibway people, is a retired priest in the diocese of Huron and now sits on the Primate’s Commission on the Doctrine of Discovery, Reconciliation and Justice.
Danielle Black, of the Blackfoot nation, is a recent film studies graduate and has documented, among other things, young people at Sacred Circles. She is also the granddaughter of Archdeacon Black.
Sault, of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, is studying at the Vancouver School of Theology and is an active lay reader.
Kern, who is Métis, is a recent graduate of Yale Divinity School and a newly ordained deacon.
The anointing was preceded by a traditional drum and chant performance by Danielle Black and Kern. Both surprised the gathering when they appeared on the stage wearing handwritten signs fastened to their tops, bearing the slogans “LGBTQ+ TWO SPIRIT SOLIDARITY” and “BLACK LIVES MATTER.” “Two Spirit” is a term used by some Indigenous peoples to refer to people who do not strictly identify as male or female.
In an interview with the Anglican Journal, Danielle Black said she and Kern wanted to “honour communities that have gone through similar struggles we have.” They also wanted to “showcase that we see you, we acknowledge you and we will stand beside you with fists up alongside, because we all fight for justice,” she said.
They also wanted to send a message that “there is a lot of silence, and silence can kill us,” said Black, adding, “We recognize the privilege of our elders giving us the mic, and we wanted to honour and stand in solidarity with the missing and murdered women and girls, the Black Lives Matter movement and queer communities.”
She added, “The crisis of violence against our friends and families are real, and we take their struggles very seriously. Justice and solidarity demand all the love and creative power we got.”
Keeper, an honorary witness to Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the third Aboriginal woman to sit in the House of Commons, in her address to General Synod, spoke on topics ranging from the misperceptions of Indigenous people to her complex mix of feelings on being asked to respond, in the House of Commons, on behalf of her party, to the government’s agreement to the Indian residential schools settlement process.
She also spoke of her hopes for the reconciliation process in Canada—a process, she said, in which the Anglican Church of Canada is playing a lead role.
“We can’t imagine how great reconciliation will be,” she said. “It is historic, it is pivotal and…it reveals Canada as this incredible country…That is why I’m really encouraged to be here today. That is why I feel blessed to be here today.”
Keeper said she anticipated the process would result in non-Indigenous people ending up with a deeper understanding of the vast linguistic and cultural diversity of Canada’s first peoples.
“I don’t think we’ve really understood the richness of our Indigenous people yet,” she said. “Reconciliation is beginning to mine the richness of our country.”
Editor’s Note: Tina Keeper was a speaker, not an honorary witness, to the commissioning of the Council of Elders and Youth members.