Members of the National Indigenous Ministry Council of the PCC met with the Moderator and some denominational staff on June 10 to discuss urgent concerns and severe circumstances facing many Indigenous Peoples in Canada. We heard about insufficient housing, poor access to health care, police violence, the lack of safe drinking water on First Nations reserve lands, impinged rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and broken treaties, particularly violation of land rights, discrimination, and the complex implications of intergenerational trauma on communities that have been targeted through colonial instruments like the residential school system. The church must stand in solidarity with Indigenous Peoples and work for an end to all forms of systemic racism against Indigenous Peoples and communities.

“Home” for many Indigenous Peoples has been taken away or disrupted by forced relocations, housing insecurity and intergenerational trauma from colonial practices, such as the Indian Residential Schools, the Sixties Scoop, and the disproportionate number of Indigenous children removed from homes and communities by the Foster Care system. Even as we met on Wednesday, we could hear the manifestations of the violence and trauma that Indigenous Peoples experience every day in this country, not just in the stories that were shared, but in overhearing cries of distress from a woman at one of the Indigenous ministries. We could hear her crying out in the background, “I want to go home,” while the staff who were present with her stepped away from the call to offer her comfort and support. We did not know what triggered this woman’s distress in the moment. But one of the underlying factors in this moment is undeniably the destructive forces of systemic racism and colonialism responsible for this loss of home and security. We heard that day, as we have heard before, that the only way to truly heal the trauma and distress she and so many other Indigenous Peoples are experiencing is through ending systemic racism and colonialism, and dismantling the structures that continue to harm and kill Indigenous Peoples today.

In the following weeks, the group that met will be working to present to the church information and actions that can be taken regarding these concerns. The witness of the church has not always been faithful to the love, justice and humility we are called to show, but we have been working to become more faithful witnesses to what God’s love and justice looks like for all people. Truly working for the healing and reconciliation that are required to ensure basic rights for Indigenous Peoples in Canada is one necessary way we must pursue that witness, and we look forward to sharing more with the church soon as we explore faithful ways to do so.

This initial statement will be followed by a series of statements over the next few weeks.

Links and Resources

Photo credit: Vivian Ketchum, originating from Wauzhushk Onigum Nation of Northern Ontario and now a member of Place of Hope Presbyterian Church in Winnipeg, Man., and Life and Mission Agency Committee member.