Members of the NIMC met in Winnipeg in October. From L to R: Yvonne Bearbull, Rev. Mary Fontaine, Rev. Amanda Currie, Faye Blaney, Dr. Allyson Carr, Jen de Combe, Rev. Dr. Margaret Mullin.

By Carragh Erhardt, Program Assistant, Justice Ministries

With the end to another year fast approaching, I’ve been spending some time reflecting on the work of the PCC’s involvement in reconciliation and Indigenous rights—what we have been doing, and where we are heading.

One of the hopes Justice Ministries had for the year was to see the General Assembly repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery (TRC Call to Action No. 49). Many hours went into drafting the report and preparing other resources to help commissioners understand why it was necessary for the PCC to take that step and the General Assembly did vote to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery.

This was vital forward movement for the PCC’s journey of reconciliation. There is more work to be done to live out the repudiation—new resources will continue to be added to to support congregations and presbyteries in learning more about the Doctrine of Discovery and how they can respond.

While we were at General Assembly, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Women and Girls released its final report, calling all Canadians to recognize that the violence described in the report amounts to thousands of acts of genocide against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people. The report is not easy reading, but it is necessary reading. As the commissioners have shared, “the fact that this National Inquiry is happening now doesn’t mean that Indigenous Peoples waited this long to speak up; it means it took this long for Canada to listen.” Especially for non-Indigenous Canadians, we need to accept the Inquiry’s call to pay attention and hold the government accountable to creating a National Action Plan.

Justice Ministries and members of the National Indigenous Ministry Council’s executive are studying the Inquiry’s final report together and will present a report to General Assembly in 2020 with recommendations for action. My encouragement right now is to start reading the report if you haven’t already. Ask friends or family to read with you so you can support each other.

The National Inquiry echoed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in calling for the full adoption and implementation of the United Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Throughout the first half of 2019, those of us who had been advocating for Bill C-262 were hopeful that the bill might receive Royal Assent before the federal election. Unfortunately, it died on the order paper in Senate in June. This was a great disappointment and we still await proposed legislation that would be comparable or stronger than Bill C-262 at outlining a plan to ensure that Canada’s laws and policies reflect the inherent rights of Indigenous peoples. At the provincial level, British Columbia introduced new legislation in November that aims to implement UNDRIP. This bill received royal assent on November 28, setting a hopeful precedent that other jurisdictions across the country will follow suit.

Another important moment this year was the release of the National Student Memorial Register on September 30 in Gatineau, Quebec. The register names over 2,800 children who died or went missing from Indian Residential Schools; there are at least 1,600 records of children whose names are unknown and the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation expects to continue adding names as their research continues. As I watched and listened during the ceremony, I was struck once more by the profound cost of the residential schools for Indigenous families and communities. There was a deep sadness in the room as we honoured the children who were lost, but also a feeling that by shedding light on the truth, we might come closer to healing.

The KAIROS Blanket Exercise continues to be a platform for honest conversations about the impact of colonization on Indigenous peoples. This year, Justice Ministries had the opportunity to bring the Blanket Exercise to eight Presbyterian groups ranging from Leamington in southwestern Ontario to Montreal. Every Blanket Exercise is a bit different because of the participants but every time, I’m struck by a sense of gratitude that I’m able to carry and share the truths that the exercise conveys. In September, Allyson and I participated in facilitator training with KAIROS to try the 5th Edition of the Blanket Exercise and talk with other facilitators about best practices.

As we look to the future of the program, we want to hear from you! We would appreciate your feedback on the Healing and Reconciliation program. Let us know what kind of resources or supports you would be interested in by filling out our short survey. If you would prefer to share your thoughts another way, you can email Justice Ministries or call 1-800-619-7301 ext. 278.

1 Reclaiming Power and Place, Volume 1a, pg. 49