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CY2014 BE KM2 smallHealing and Reconciliation at Canada Youth 2014

Five hundred Canada Youth participants spent a day learning about the legacy of residential schools in Canada. Eugene Arcand was a keynote speaker. He is a residential school survivor and sits on the Indian Residential School Survivor Committee of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. He was warmly received by participants. He shared his personal experiences at residential school and challenged everyone at Canada Youth to be an active participant in the journey to reconciliation. His challenge resonated deeply with participants who punctuated the end of his talk with thunderous applause and a standing ovation. Messages of hope and thanks to Eugene were offered by CY participants. Participants then did the Blanket Exercise and attended several workshops.

Edmonton Churches Support Efforts to End Homelessness

Homelessness has always been an issue in Edmonton. Homeless counts since 1999, conducted every two years, showed the numbers were steadily rising. It didn’t make any difference whether our economy was doing well or badly. Something had to be done. City Council struck Edmonton’s Committee to End Homelessness. They wanted innovative thinking applied to the problem of homelessness, so a wide spectrum of community leaders was appointed to the Committee: business people, labour leaders, managers of philanthropic organizations, social agency directors, politicians and faith leaders. The Committee’s plan set an ambitious goal – end chronic homelessness in 10 years. Faith leaders in Edmonton realized the worthiness of this goal and formed the Capital Region Interfaith Initiative on Homelessness and Affordable Housing. They work to educate faith communities about and respond to homelessness. One of the resources they prepared is a guide for congregations that gives practical suggestions for how congregations can become involved.

On Thursday, November 13 members of the Capital Region Interfaith Initiative on Homelessness and Affordable Housing renewed their commitment to end homelessness and signed a document to that effect at Edmonton City Hall. The Rev. Harry Currie, Clerk of the Presbytery of Edmonton-Lakeland, signed on behalf of the Presbytery of Edmonton-Lakeland. The presbytery is setting up a fund in support of congregational initiatives to address homelessness. Joe Roberts was a guest speaker. He was once homeless and now is the wealthy owner of a successful business. Joe spoke about how a non-profit agency helped him get off the streets. Since 2009, Edmonton has housed almost 3000 homeless people and 466 units of affordable housing have been built.

Edmonton has a diverse interfaith community that works together on social issues and on building relationships and harmony. Faith groups and organizations involved include: Anglican, Roman Catholic, Ukrainian Catholic, United, Quakers, Lutheran, Reformed, Presbyterian, Baptist, Pentecostal, Alliance, Evangelical, Salvation Army as well as Buddhist, Unitarian, Sikh, Jewish, Zoroastrian, Hindu, Muslim, Aboriginal and Bahai.

— The Rev. Harry Currie is the minister at First Presbyterian Church in Edmonton AB.

Churches Support Cindy Blackstock

On October 19 KAIROS gathered friends and colleagues to offer support and solidarity to Dr. Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society as she prepared to present final arguments in a landmark case to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.  The case was brought before the Tribunal in 2007 by the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society and by the Assembly of First Nations. The case argues that federal government funding and provision of First Nations child and family services to reserve communities is flawed, inequitable, and thus discriminatory under the Canadian Human Rights Act. Evidence was presented to the Tribunal over 15 months, ending in May 2014.

KAIROS has supported Dr. Blackstock, and the call for equitable funding for First Nations children. Some 100 guests gathered at the beautiful Wabano Health Centre in Ottawa and included representatives from KAIROS’ member churches, among which was this Presbyterian scribe. Dr. Blackstock’s colleagues and supporters spoke about her efforts in putting this case forward. Justice Murray Sinclair, the Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, who had come to Ottawa specifically for the occasion, concluded with words of appreciation to and about Dr. Blackstock.

The Tribunal’s final ruling is expected by the end of April 2015. Let us pray its findings are favourable, and let us continue to provide a supportive presence and give whatever practical help is needed to support and walk with Aboriginal people.

— Sheila M. Selley is a member of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church and a Healing and Reconciliation local leader in Ottawa.

Tom BrownleeUnexpected Grace: a Story of Reconciliation

Experiencing God’s grace can be unexpected. I was recently invited to be present at the Muslim “Festival of the Sacrifice” – Eid al-Adha. There were about fifty people in attendance, Muslims and guests. The story of the festival was explained and we feasted well! I was at a table reserved for guests. Two Muslims sat with us to serve as hosts and to answer any questions guests might have.

When we finished eating, various people were thanked for what they had contributed to the meal. More speeches followed. Afterwards, preparations were made for afternoon prayers. One of the men who had sat at our table went over to two other men seated at another table and specifically invited them to come to the prayers. They thanked him and good-naturedly declined. The man who had invited them said with a smile: “We’ll convert you yet.” One of the men replied jovially: “No, we’ll convert you.” I went over and asked one of the men invited to the Muslim prayers: “What religion are you?” He replied: “Jewish.” While the Muslims engaged in their prayers, led by the Imam, the Jewish men also prayed in their own way. As a Christian, I spent the time reflecting on scripture passages.

After the Muslims had finished their prayers, the young man who had invited the Jewish men to prayers came back, shook hands with them, and sat down to chat. They were smiling and laughing. I learned later that one of the Jewish men had been born in Israel, but had come to Canada at an early age because both his parents had been killed in conflict. Muslim radicals had killed them. I also discovered that the Muslim man who was chatting with them had been a Muslim radical earlier in his life. Here they were, able to move beyond their past history and experience reconciliation. What made this experience in reconciliation surprising for me is that it took place in prison. The event itself took place in the prison chapel with a number of Christians present.

This particular prison requires that ten prisoners attend in order to organize any event. There are fewer than ten Jewish men in this prison, potentially making it difficult for them organize one of their festivals. The astonishing part of this story is that the Muslim group always sign up enough of its members for the Jewish events to proceed. In return, the Jewish prisoners are invited to the Muslim events. This experience was extraordinary and speaks to me of God’s grace at work in the most amazing and unexpected way.

— The Rev. Tom Brownlee is a retired Presbyterian chaplain at the Calgary Correctional and Remand Centres. Previously, he coordinated the M2 Prison Visitation program at Bowden Institution.

openforjustice logoMining Justice in Canada—Participate in the “Open for Justice” Campaign

KAIROS is asking its members to sign the petition in its Open for Justice campaign. There is currently no legislation to regulate the activities of Canadian mining companies operating overseas. The campaign encourages the federal government to develop two accountability mechanisms for Canadian mining companies’ operations overseas: 1) An extractive-sector Ombudsman with the power to independently investigate complaints and make recommendations to corporations and to the Government of Canada; and 2) Legislated access to Canadian courts for citizens of other countries who have been seriously harmed by the international operations of Canadian companies. Sign the online petition.

Canada is a global mining leader: more than 50% of global mining companies have their head offices in Canada. A faithful response to the biblical call to do justice and be wise stewards of our natural and financial resources means considering the impact of Canadian companies on people and the environment. Learn more about the church and corporate social responsibility.

The staff at St. Andrew’s Hespeler in Cambridge, Ontario, wearing their orange shirtsOrange Shirt Day Honours Residential Schools Students

In 2013, the Cariboo School Districts 27 & 28, the Cariboo Regional District and the City of Williams Lake BC launched Orange Shirt Day on September 30 to honour the children who attended residential schools.

These are some of the Presbyterians who wore orange shirts on September 30, 2014: Left: The Rev. William MacLellan, Osgoode Presbyterian Church, Vernon ON, told the story of Orange Shirt Day to the congregation. Centre: Yvonne Bearbull and the Kenora Fellowship Centre organized a community meal in Kenora ON. Right: The staff at St. Andrew’s Hespeler in Cambridge ON.

The story behind orange shirt day is based on the experience of Phyllis (Jack) Webstad recalling a memory of having her favourite orange shirt taken away from her at residential school. The full story is available here.

David Phillips Retires

It has been an interesting time in the history of Canada and our Aboriginal people. As I took on the position of Healing and Reconciliation Animator, I knew this work would be a challenge. This is the main reason I agreed to serve in this position.

The challenge is and will continue to be education: our church and our country must be better educated about the history of residential schools and its effects today. This education will allow us to journey together, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people, as equals. As we journey together we will gain a better understanding of each other, continue to heal hurt and brokenness, and work for reconciled relationships that bring mutual understanding of each other. My prayer is that as we work together that the love of God will permeate every person, fueling a desire to continue on this journey towards reconciliation.

David Phillips served as the healing and reconciliation program animator for three and half years. He retires December 2014. He will be missed by his colleagues.

caring for creation resource picNew Resources

Time for Justice is based on the report of the International Affairs Committee to the General Assembly. The 2014–2015 resource considers how Canada’s Overseas Development Assistance funds can help to reduce poverty in countries in the Global South.

Celebrate Earth Day on April 22: Celebrate the renewal of life as earth awakes to Spring. Honour God as Creator through wise stewardship of creation. Mark Earth day in worship, prayer and action. Bulletin inserts are available from Justice Ministries.

KAIROS has prepared an Advent resource Building Reconciled Relationships that explores reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people  and with creation through Advent themes of Joy, Hope, Peace and Love. It is based on the lectionary Year B.

Arms Trade Treaty

The international community has treaties dealing with many issues such as the protection of refugees, the prohibition of torture or the prohibition of anti-personnel land mines. These treaties and others do not change the behavior of governments or other organizations overnight. Change is slow. What treaties do is enshrine into law what the international community through the United Nations, agrees is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. A bar is set, a norm is established. In time, international behaviour changes. On December 24, the treaty governing the conditions under which weapons are sold and to whom, becomes international law for the 54 nation-states that have ratified the Arms Trade Treaty. This means that the domestic laws of these states are compliant with the ATT. A further 69 states have signed the Treaty, the prior step before ratifying the Treaty. This Treaty is good news. A new norm will be established on December 24. Canada has not yet signed the ATT, the only member of NATO not to do so. Let us hope and pray that Canada signs and ratifies this important treaty.

For further information, visit Project Ploughshares and the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs.

Peace and Human Security Internship Program

Are you concerned about conflict in the world? Do you believe that The Presbyterian Church in Canada has something to say about peace building? If you are about to graduate (or know someone) with a degree in international affairs, peace and conflict studies or a related field of study, you may be interested in applying for the Peace and Human Security Internship Program with Project Ploughshares in Waterloo ON. The deadline for applications is April 30, 2015. The start date for this eight month internship is Sept. 1, 2015. There is a stipend. For more information contact Stephen Allen, Justice Ministries.

photo 1Merry Christmas from Justice Ministries!

On a blustery afternoon, my husband and I made our way through downtown Toronto to attend a preview of an Inuit Art auction. We weren’t in the market to bid on the offerings but having twice visited Canada’s Arctic we were drawn to this opportunity to reconnect in some way with our experiences in the north. As we expected, the art was stunning; moving and gifted expressions of the landscape, the wildlife and the lives of the people. What we didn’t expect was to come away laughing.

The program included a demonstration of throat singing by two Inuit women. In throat singing two people sing together but each sings a different sound. When blended together the voices can tell a story or replicate the animals or activities in the environment. Throat singing is also a competition. The objective is to make the other person laugh so that she loses her concentration, breaks down and has to withdraw making her partner the winner. Each of the songs the women treated us to ended with the sounds of their happy laughter. We quickly found ourselves laughing too and the laughter became contagious until everyone in that diverse gathering was sharing this moment of joy and connection. During those grace filled moments we weren’t aware of our differences or the barriers that separated us.

As a retired minister and a member of the Justice Ministries Advisory Committee, I have deepened my understanding of the depth of the challenges, and the joys, that are part of seeking truth and reconciliation between non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal people. For me, this experience was a gift of hope on that journey. At this time of Advent, as we wait expectantly to once more celebrate the birth of the Christ child may you be open to giving and receiving the gifts of hope that surround you. May they be for you glimpses of the Kingdom of God in the here and now. May they be reminders that although we wait amid the chaos and unknowns of our world, we wait in the knowledge that hope—Advent hope—is trust in the faithfulness of God.

— The Rev. Mary F. Campbell is a member and co-convener of the Justice Ministries Advisory Committee. She attends Glenview Presbyterian Church in Toronto, ON.

Community Forum on Poverty in Pictou, Nova Scotia

Earlier in November, the Pictou County Council of Churches held a workshop on poverty. The workshop was hosted by First Presbyterian Church in New Glasgow and brought together member churches of the Council, a town counsellor, a mayor, representatives from Legal Aid, and community service agencies. This ecumenical initiative provided a space to share information and make connections between people and organizations on growing poverty in Pictou County. The Presbytery of Pictou supported the workshop.

One of the speakers was Karen MacKay, an elder at St. Luke’s Presbyterian Church in nearby Salt Springs. MacKay is a former support worker with the Pictou County Women’s Centre. She spoke about the many different faces of poverty, the importance of on-going efforts to raise awareness about poverty and the need for public policies, such as a living wage and adequate and accessible mental health services which can make a difference in the lives of people living in poverty.

— From a report by Cherry Paris.

Poverty Growing in Canada

On November 24, 1989, there was unanimous agreement by all parties in the House of Commons to eliminate child poverty by 2000. Sadly, this has not happened. The annual report on child poverty by Campaign 2000 indicates that child poverty has increased from 15.8% in 1989 to 19% in 2012. A recent report by the TD Bank, concludes that there has been a “significant rise in inequality in Canada over the past several decades”. The report notes that Canada’s ranking on income equality among the 34 member states of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development fell from 9th place to 19th. This is based on after-tax and transfer income. Growing inequality affects all of us as it erodes social cohesion, increases social exclusion and as the TD Bank report notes, lowers economic growth.