Representatives from churches and religious organization issue ecumenical statement in a press conference on Parliament Hill
(Ottawa, ON) – Eight churches and religious organizations jointly declared their commitment to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s (TRC) Call to Action 48 in a press conference on Parliament Hill on March 30. This call urges the faith community to implement the principles, norms and standards of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a framework for reconciliation.
The Right Reverend Mark MacDonald, National Indigenous Anglican Bishop, delivered the statement on behalf of the churches and religious organizations that signed it, with introductions by the Right Reverend Jordan Cantwell, Moderator, United Church of Canada. The following representatives also attended: the Reverend Karen Horst, Moderator, Presbyterian Church in Canada, the Reverend Susan Johnson, National Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, Manuela Popovici, Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), and Major Shari Russell, Salvation Army.
The Christian Reformed Church in North America also signed the ecumenical statement, but they did not attend the press conference.
TRC Commissioner Marie Wilson was present to hear the ecumenical statement.
“The response of the church ecumenical community to TRC Call to Action 48 expresses an important understanding by a rich diversity of faith communities, that the nature of abuses experienced by Indigenous children in residential schools in Canada included spiritual abuse,” says Commissioner Wilson. “Their response not only recognizes the human rights of Indigenous peoples as expressed in the UN Declaration, including spiritual rights. It also demonstrates the potential of institutions, which have in the past betrayed some of their own stated teachings and values, to face up to such history with courage, and to contribute to strengthening the human rights realities necessary for our country to claim the reputation it so wishes for itself.”
The statement was delivered a day before the deadline set by the TRC. It’s the only deadline issued by the TRC in its 94 Calls to Action and it involves churches, faith groups and interfaith social justice groups, many of which have signalled their intent as well.
Released in June 2015, the TRC’s Calls to Action challenge Canadians to address and overcome more than a century of systemic discrimination and abuse and create a transformed relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.
The UN Declaration affirms Indigenous peoples’ human rights and emphasizes that these rights set a minimum standard for the survival, dignity and well-being of Indigenous peoples. By asserting that the Declaration is the framework for reconciliation, the TRC calls on the faith community to redress the legacy of Residential Schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation.
“As churches and religious organizations, we have acknowledged our failures to respect the rights and dignity of Indigenous peoples,” reads the statement. “We acknowledge the harm done and are committed to journeying together towards healing and reconciliation. Many of us are on different places in that journey: some have been engaged in these questions for decades; for others, it is new terrain. But we are all committed to responding to this call.”
The statement also acknowledges that significant changes are required to realize reconciliation.
“Call to Action 48 necessitates a fundamental reordering of our relationship, and a significant change in our identity as a country. It requires us to truly respect Indigenous peoples’ right of self-determination and to acknowledge and respect nation-to-nation relationships based on mutuality and respect.”
“The commitment to Call to Action 48 represents a vital step forward for the Church,” says Reverend MacDonald. “If it lives into, embodies, and follows the Call – it will bring a transformation in the relationship with Indigenous peoples and within the Church.”
“Honouring the UN Declaration as the framework for reconciliation will change us as churches, and as a country,” says the Right Reverend Jordan Cantwell, Moderator of the United Church of Canada. “It will change us all for the better.”
Read the ecumenical statement: