Page 9 - Presbyterian Connection
P. 9
 UN Declaration
on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
 By Katharine Sisk, Justice Ministries
On June 21, 2021, National Indig- enous Peoples Day, Bill C-15, an Act to bring Canadian laws in line with the articles of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, re- ceived Royal Assent and was passed into law. The Bill requires the Cana- dian government to consult with In- digenous peoples and prepare a plan for implementing Bill C-15 within the next two years. Beyond that, it re- quires annual reporting on progress made to the House of Commons for transparency and accountability.
To understand the significance of this bill and its accountability we must recognize that as a nation, a political entity with laws and policies, and as a society, there is an urgent and desperate need for its implemen- tation. We don’t need to look further than the Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commis- sion and the Calls for Justice from the National Inquiry into Missing and
Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls to see how anti-Indigenous systemic racism is not a thing of the past, but a weapon that continues to carry deadly force today.
In May 2021, Tk’emlúps te
system, still shape the lives and ex- periences of Indigenous peoples to- day through barriers affecting access to health care, the safety of loved ones, access to clean drinking wa- ter, equity in education, and equitable treatment under Canadian laws and in court systems.
The passage of Bill C-15 is not just an act of Parliament, but a moral im- perative with legal leverage that can be used to reframe the relationships be- tween governments and Indigenous peoples onto a more just foundation. It is not itself a remedy against racism, or a resetting of broken trust, or med- icine for intergenerational wounds. It will not immediately counter com- plex layers of prejudice and bias. Rather, it gives us guidelines that constitute the minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-be- ing of Indigenous peoples—a frame- work for reconciliation.
Though there were many allies supporting efforts to see this bill become law, the passage of this bill
Secwepemc First Nation was the first of several Indigenous communities to share information that unmarked and undocumented burial sites had been located on the grounds of for- mer Residential Schools. The Pres- byterian Church in Canada, which operated 12 Residential Schools, continues with repentance to exam- ine its involvement in the harms of colonization. These announcements have surprised and disturbed many non-Indigenous Canadians and re- triggered intergenerational trauma for many Indigenous people. But the surprise of many Canadians is itself a symptom of colonialism—the an- nouncements did not surprise Indige- nous people. The societal structures and the discriminatory beliefs that gave rise to the Residential Schools
would not have been possible without the leadership and immense work of many Indigenous people. And while there is so much yet to be done, in
this moment, we express gratitude for the persistence, resilience and courage of Indigenous peoples, and all who work for Indigenous rights.
 What can churches do?
• Learn about the National Indigenous Ministries of The Presbyterian Church in Canada at Watch a worship service by ministry leaders to mark National Indigenous Peoples Day.
• Seek to understand the harms of intergenerational trauma on Indigenous peoples and communities by reading the Final Report and Calls to Justice of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and use the PCC study guide on the final report: Why Work to Decolonize?, available at You can also read the resources and support the work of Indigenous organizations, such as the Native Women’s Association of Canada.
• Learn about the impacts of colonialism and why it was necessary for the church to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery at
• Be a partner for change. Read the statement by the former and current moderators made in light of the findings of 215 unmarked graves of children at Kamloops Residential School at Discuss it in your faith community. How can your church support Indigenous-lead initiatives that centre around and magnify Indigenous knowledge, culture, language and traditions?

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