By Rita Buttton
To repudiate the laws such as the Doctrine of Discovery and others that give Europeans the right of sovereignty is a place to start the political process of sharing and respecting all who live here. Church parties, too, should “formally adopt and comply with the principles … of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a framework for reconciliation” (p.52). These principles were identified in the first Truth and Reconciliation Report for The Beacon.
Indigenous peoples should have the right to practice their own religions, including traditional ceremonies representing their spiritual journeys. Conversations regarding the ways in which Indigenous people celebrate their religion should occur with the view to creating understanding and respect.
Since religion is a part of cultural identity, and since residential schools run by four religious denominations—United, Presbyterian, Anglican and Roman Catholic—interfered with Indigenous culture through these residential schools, it is important to ensure not only that the history is known and understood by all who are a part of church congregations but also that they understand the reasons that apologies are important and needed. Three of the four religious groups that were a part of Canadian residential schools have formally apologized. Although the Pope has been asked to apologize, he has, so far, been unable to do so; however, Ms. Carolyn Bennett, Minister for Crown-Indigenous Relations, met with the Canadian Council of Catholic Bishops at the end of May and all have agreed to continue the conversation in an attempt to create a way for the Pope to apologize (https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-pope-open-to-gesture-of-reconciliation-with-canadas-indigenous-people/).
Also, church groups, party to the Settlement Agreement in collaboration with survivors and representatives of Aboriginal organizations, should establish permanent funding to Aboriginal people for Community controlled projects of healing and reconciliation, culture and language revitalization, education and relationship building, as well as regional dialogues for Indigenous spiritual leaders and youth to discuss spirituality, self-determination and reconciliation.
In this way, responsibility for past actions can be shown and a way to nurture Indigenous culture in peace and harmony can occur.
All information and quotations, except for those being credited to a url,originate from the publication Truth and Reconciliation, Calls to Action, from the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, 2015