BRANTFORD – A historic declaration from the Anglican Church of Canada regarding it’s part in the horrific cultural genocide and many abuses done to an estimated 150,000 Aboriginal children and their families in the name of Christ was delivered at North America’s oldest Anglican Church, Her Majesties Chapel of the Mohawks in Brantford, Saturday afternoon.
Canada’s top Anglican Bishops and leaders were on hand as Anglican Archbishop of Canada, Fred Hiltz and National Indigenous Bishop, Right Reverend Mark MacDonald delivered a humble and heartfelt apology to all Indigenous children forced to attend residential schools operated by the Church and their families.
The Chapel is only a short distance from the Mohawk Institute, Canada’s first and longest running residential school where atrocities were committed in the name of education and Christianity against Aboriginal children.
These abuses were openly admitted to in the presence of a full chapel of Anglicans, Six Nations residents and media in the very Chapel some of these abuses took place.
It was a beautiful, unseasonably warm day to deliver such a message of repentance along with a list of actions the church has begun to engage in to educate Canadian Anglicans across Turtle Island and admit to the church’s part in the many abuses, philological, physical and sexual, as well as cultural genocide.
Reverend Norm Casey, Six Nations Anglican Minister to four reserve churches, welcomed the Anglican dignitaries to the Territory and was recognized for his part in bringing about change and that of members of his congregation, including the late Liona Moses and Nina Burnham and the church’s public repentance observed here Saturday.
Following the announcement, prayers and songs of faith, those present were invited to a meal at the Sherwood Inn restaurant, by Rev. Casey on behalf of the Church.
Huron Dieses Bishop Robert Bennett, seemed somewhat relieved, happy and humbled by the announcement.
“Things have already been moving along in terms of moving to a new place and today just brings it into focus with specifics and concrete action plans,” he told TRT. “Now with the Dios and Bishop here, I can now go back with what the Archbishop said in terms of response and declaration we can now begin to carry out regarding new relationship building. Many of our people are just totally ignorant of what happened. They don’t know. This is opening that door to transformation, so I am very excited.”
Donna Bomberry of the Cayuga Nation received the apology on behalf of Six Nations.
“I want to say wow! And Nia;we,” she began. “Over 30 years ago, we began our social justice journey with the Anglican Church. We dared to dream and dared to hope for healing and reconciliation as believers in Jesus Christ. Our vision has grown and has been consistent about our healing journey and that reconciliation is possible when the church supports our self-determination as a healing spiritual ministry within the Anglican Church of Canada.”
She was grateful for the opportunity she and others had to offer input to the UN Declaration and was excited about the road the Anglican church has taken towards true reconciliation.
Bomberry was also pleased with the Anglican Church’s rejection of the doctrine of discovery and the request made to Queen Elizabeth to officially renounce the notion of the Doctrine of Discovery.
She was especially happy to hear that every parish church community will utilize June 21, National Aboriginal Day, for learning about the UN Declaration, and the continuing education declared by the Arch Bishop and Primate of the Anglican Church.
“The Bishops are in a unique position to provide that leadership and guidance to encourage their diocese in its territories and municipalities to endorse the Declaration,” she said.
Anglican Church repents for past sins
SIX NATIONS – In renouncing the Doctrine of Discovery that drove colonial expansion – regarding “discovered lands” as empty lands; and treating the First Peoples of the land as savages to be conquered, civilized, and Christianized, our church described that doctrine “as fundamentally opposed to the gospel of Christ and our understanding of the inherent rights that individuals and peoples have received from God”.
I remain deeply committed to enabling our church to let its “yes” in repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery be a resounding and continuing “yes”.
While much has been written about this doctrine, it is clear there is much more education required if we are to understand the political and spiritual arrogance inherent in it, and the force with which it was upheld through strategies aimed at systemic cultural genocide.
In Canada, the so-called “Indian problem” was addressed through federal policies of assimilation, forced confinement in Residential Schools established by the Government and run by the churches. History has revealed how flawed this policy was, how horrific the experience of some 150,000 aboriginal children and how lasting the impact of so much loss in their lives – loss of identity, language, and culture; loss of community and learning the ways of their ancestors, loss of “their own spiritual and religious traditions, customs and ceremonies”; loss of their dignity through assault of every kind – emotional, physical, and sexual; and perhaps most profoundly of all the many years of lost love “for the child taken and for the parent left behind”.
I call on every diocese and territory of our church to ensure opportunity for learning about the history and lingering legacy of this doctrine. I commend the growing practice of beginning meetings synods and assemblies with an acknowledgement of the traditional territories and lands on which we gather and an expression of thanks.
I commend resources produced by the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples and the Primate’s Commission on Discovery, Reconciliation and Justice. I also commend the highly participatory Blanket Exercise designed by KAIROS, and the Mapping Exercise designed by the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) and the Anglican Fund for Healing and Reconciliation.
It would be an oversight not to remember also that in the General Synod Resolution of 2010, there was a clause requesting her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II “to disavow and repudiate publicly, the claimed validity of the Christian Doctrine of Discovery”. That request was formally acknowledged and the matter referred for consideration by the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. My hope is that there be a response in time for the commemorations marking the 150th Anniversary of Confederation next year. I am therefore requesting the General Secretary to write a letter of encouragement to that effect.
In the same session of General Synod that our church repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery, we also endorsed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Six years later, we are challenged by Call to Action #48 to declare a plan for how we will implement that Declaration.
By way of introduction, I reference the counsel given me by the Primate’s Commission on Discovery, Reconciliation and Justice. It reads as follows:
UNDRIP must be approached and applied with a set of expectations that will inform strategy, process, and practice…There must be time for teaching and reflection that demonstrates those connections – guided by direct input from Indigenous People. …We will need to have a gradual acceptance and acknowledgement that Church institutions and members were involved in serious violations of UNDRIP and core Christian teaching over a number of centuries. The process of compliance to Call to Action #48 should be strategically planned to be progressive, on-going and reflective.
Mindful of this counsel, I believe the full text of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples should be included in the Handbook of the General Synod and regarded as a guiding document in our relationship with Indigenous Peoples.
I am requesting that on National Aboriginal Day, June 21 or the Sunday closest there be a public reading of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in every parish across Canada. This should be accompanied by appropriate prayers and ceremonies in keeping with Indigenous spiritual customs.
I am calling for reference to this Declaration, among others issued by the United Nations, to be included in programs of preparation of candidates for baptism and confirmation in our church, in keeping with our vows “to strive for justice and peace among all people”. The Rev. Riscylla Walsh Shaw of Bolton, Ontario is developing such a program and it promises to be a very good resource. I am recommending that the UN Declaration be the subject of learning for education days in parish settings, deanery gatherings, diocesan synods and national councils of our church.
I also call on our church in every circle of its life and work to an unwavering commitment to anti-racism training, in the spirit of equipping all of us to honour our baptismal vow “to respect the dignity of every human being”.
I intend to hold the United Nations Declaration before the bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada. By virtue of their office they are in a unique position to help us honour one of the clauses in the General Synod Resolution to endorse the UN Declaration, that is “to encourage dioceses and parishes to urge their municipalities, provinces and territories to endorse the Declaration”. I will be inviting the bishops to share initiatives in this regard at our meeting this fall.
In the interest of building genuine partnerships, I have issued a call for a special joint meeting of the Council of General Synod and the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples within the next year. We are learning that genuine partnership depends on knowing one another at greater depth.
Our National Indigenous Anglican Bishop has written, “while each of the articles of the Declaration is important, the guiding thread is the right to self-determination…The Anglican Church of Canada has had moments where, coming close to such a recognition, there have been steps forward towards realizing a new relationship within this understanding…Fully complying with the UN Declaration will mean more consistent and genuine progress toward lasting self-determination for the Indigenous church, in such a way that can nurture creative relationships of equity and mutuality across the whole church.” I think Bishop Mark MacDonald is calling our church to let its “yes” be a resounding and continuing “yes”.
Along with the General Synod, two other national ministries associated with the Anglican Church of Canada are also deeply committed to the UN Declaration. One is the Anglican Foundation of Canada, which is inviting proposals for funding for community-based projects aligning with the TRC Calls to Action. The other is the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund and its commitment – enshrined in its 2015-2018 Strategic Plan – to deepen relationships with First Nations, Métis and Inuit Peoples.
The Anglican Church of Canada has a long history of association with KAIROS and its commitment to Indigenous Rights. In 1987, we signed “A New Covenant”, an ecumenical pastoral statement that was based on the principles, norms and standards now lifted up in the UN Declaration. Today, through KAIROS the commitment is shifting to working with Indigenous Peoples to better reflect a nation-to-nation relationship.
I draw this statement to a close with an announcement. In consultation with the National Indigenous Bishop and the General Secretary, I will establish a Council of Elders and Youth to monitor our church’s honouring in word and action our church’s commitment “to formally adopt and comply with the principles, norms and standards of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”. It is my intention to commission this Council for its work on Sunday, July 10 at General Synod 2016.
The last word in this statement is appropriately that of our National Indigenous Anglican Bishop. He writes “may the UN Declaration be our prayer, dedication and discipline in the coming years. Perhaps, our new Covenant”. I heartily concur. His word speaks to the patience and perseverance we will need in making the Anglican Church of Canada’s “yes” to the UN Declaration a resounding and resounding and continuing “yes” for all time.
The Most Rev. Fred Hiltz
Primate, The Anglican Church of Canada