The next steps forward

Northwest Territories sun dancers perform at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Northern National Event held in Inuvik in June 2011. Photo: Marites N. Sison
Northwest Territories sun dancers perform at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Northern National Event held in Inuvik in June 2011. Photo: Marites N. Sison
Published May 21, 2015

As the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) wraps up its work this month, the Anglican Journal asked four Anglicans to reflect on the following questions: Where do you see reconciliation happening between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians now? What needs to happen going forward?

The Rev. Chris Harper, diocese of Saskatchewan, and member, Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP)

Reconciliation needs to be more enhanced and at the same time, more pronounced. It is not widely known in the wider church about what reconciliation is, and at the same time, what it could be.

Reconciliation means going all the way out, reaching out and actually touching those affected…But it has to happen with full acknowledgement and understanding of the history.

I’ve done a couple of church presentations which have been incredibly positive, wonderfully positive, where we’ve actually had people who were involved as teachers at residential schools, where they’ve actually come up and apologized, and where I’ve hugged them and said, “The apology starts here with us, and now we take it out into the wider community.” This is something that has to be done…It’s a healing process on both sides of the fence, and the fence right now is the awakening and the acknowledgement of the historical past and who we are.”

Freda Lepine, lay member, diocese of Brandon, and member, Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP)

Reconciliation is when the families are all well. But it’s going to be a long, slow process. There’s so much to be done to try to get people back on track. There are so many families that are losing their children, even to this day, and it is because of second- and third-generation residential school effects.

There’s so much more we could be doing-for example, summer programming with kids…A lot of our children have lost their faith, because their parents have lost their faith.

They’ve been raised in the city…and they don’t know anything about their cultural background. We took some teenagers out a couple of summers ago, and they were in awe. We took them out to a trapline and to old cemetery sites, where our people used to travel the river route, and where they were buried. We said, “Look, this is one of your great-uncles, or this is one of your great-aunts,” that they never knew existed. It made them feel like this was their home, this was their great-grandpa’s area.

Archbishop John Privett, bishop of the diocese of Kootenay and metropolitan of the ecclesiastical province of British Columbia and the Yukon.

In B.C….folks in parishes prayerfully knit [shawls] and thought about residential school survivors and these were presented to people who told their stories at the TRC, and that was beautiful, I think, for the people who received them to feel wrapped in that. It was also significant for the people involved in making them, in terms of the awareness [raised].

After the TRC, we need to continue within the church to raise awareness of the legacy of residential schools…The next step for the church is to have the conversation that helps us challenge some of the deep-seated prejudices that are just inherent in Canadian society.

The 22 days [initiative] calls for [us]…to stand in solidarity with Indigenous people…Our House of Bishops here in the province a couple of years ago issued a statement regarding the Northern Gateway pipeline, and our statement was basically to say that it is really critical that we listen to First Nations voices.

Photo: Heather Giffen

The Rev. Riscylla Walsh Shaw, member, Primate’s Commission on Doctrine of Discovery, Healing and Reconciliation 

The truth-telling has gained momentum and it is no longer easy for us to ignore what happened, so I see that as a very positive thing.

This is the task for reconciliation in the church now, for people in their spheres of influence to work for change from the inside out. It can and will be done, and I’ve seen it start with Indigenous expressions of liturgy, worship and devotion, and working to decolonize the church.

[Realizing healing and reconciliation] is an individual and a collective process, and it requires [the] intentional participation of all of us. It’s going to happen through education. I’ve got young kids in school, and it’s already happening in a way that it never happened for me.

The bigger picture is that there is a whole racism element that has to be confessed and addressed. It is like a massive confession that the church has to do, is doing and has to continue to do-together.


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