BC bishops' pastoral letter on treaty referendum

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

We, the Bishops of British Columbia, write to you on a matter that concerns all Christians and citizens of this province. At the very core of our faith lies the concept of ‘radical equality’. When we come to the altar to receive the Body and Blood of our Lord, we all come as the same, penitent sinners, and we all receive the same gift of grace. No one gets more; no one gets less. True Christian community is based not on common interests, social standing or life circumstances, but on making real among us this ‘radical equality’. The extent to which we do so is the extent to which we reflect the Realm of God. Further, as individual Christians and as communities of Christians, our purpose is to bring the Realm of God into being in our world. We do so by struggling to extend throughout society the ‘radical equality’ that is the nature of the Realm of God.

As citizens of British Columbia, we are asked to take part in what is being called a Referendum on Treaty Negotiations. Some months ago, a Task Force to study the issue was set up jointly by the Diocese of New Westminster and Archbishop Crawley, the Metropolitan. The Task Force is broadly based geographically and includes aboriginal Christians.

The ‘referendum’ raises serious questions for us.

  1. Should or indeed can the rights of a minority, which have been acknowledged to exist by the courts of the land, be the subject of a vote by the majority?
  2. Is this a true referendum or is it more accurately described as a poll? Is it right for the government to consider the results of such a ballot binding no matter how few citizens take part in it?
  3. Will the ‘referendum’ enhance or harm the process of treaty negotiations which are necessary for the ‘common good’ of our province?
  4. How should we, as Christians, respond to the ‘referendum ballot’ when we receive it?

The answer to the last question is, of course, a matter of individual conscience. The Task Force recommends the following:

  1. If you choose to participate in the balloting, vote no to all questions.
  2. If, because you disapprove of the very idea of the referendum, you choose not to participate, do not destroy your ballot. Instead, sign the certification envelope as a registered voter but leave the ballot blank and mail it in as instructed. Your ballot will be recorded and reported as a rejected ballot.

Finally, we ask all Anglicans to study and learn about the complexities of treaty claims and negotiations. There will be articles in various diocesan papers and a number already have been posted on the web site of the Diocese of New Westminster.

We believe the dominant political, social, economic and justice issue in the life of British Columbia for the next ten years will be the relationship of aboriginal and non-aboriginal peoples and cultures.

To this end, we invite all members of the church to consider the gravity of the choices before us in the light of our vocation to bring into reality the Realm of God.

Yours in Christ,

David Crawley Archbishop of Kootenay
Metropolitan of British Columbia and Yukon
Bishop for the Central Interior

Barry Jenks Bishop of British Columbia

Michael Ingham Bishop of New Westminster

William Anderson Bishop of Caledonia

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