On this day five years ago the full and final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was released. It was the culmination of seven years of listening to the painful truths about the system of residential schools for Indigenous children. For over a century the removal of children from their families in order to attend residential schools was practiced as a government policy. The intentions of those who participated in leading the system ranged from a genuine desire to offer an education to a professed need to ‘take the Indian out of the child’ and get rid of the ‘Indian problem’. The results were devastating. The absence of parental care and love; the loss of languages; and substandard education provided would have been devastating enough without the added horror of physical and sexual abuse in some settings. The intergenerational trauma lives on in families and communities today.
The Anglican Church of Canada made a formal apology in 1994 through Archbishop Michael Peers who poignantly said, ‘We tried to remake you in our own image’. A further apology in 2019 by Archbishop Fred Hiltz offered confessions, including for ‘ our sin in failing to acknowledge that as First Peoples living here for thousands of years, you had a spiritual relationship with the Creator and with the Land.’ Those apologies stand as markers in what is and will be a long journey of reconciliation.
We are committed to the work of reconciliation and to our part in fulfilling the Calls to Action of the TRC report in our own life while holding our government and other agencies accountable for their part. I am deeply grateful for the work over many, many years in our Church through Indigenous elders; the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples; the Healing Fund; Indigenous ministries; Sacred Circles; the Reconciliation Animator, Melanie Delva, and the National Indigenous Anglican Archbishop, Archbishop Mark MacDonald. Their perseverance and steadfast witness in calling for justice and building new relationships in the Church with patience in the face of denial by some; opposition by others and slow change in and by others is helping the whole Church face our past and discover a new future together.
The 94 Calls to Action of the Final Report remain incomplete and we all have a role in addressing them. Many have not begun to be implemented. We must encourage all Canadians to commit to and work for the implementation of these Calls to Action as a step in the reconciliation that is needed to be the kind of country we claim as our vision. As Anglicans we have a particular responsibility for our share in the past even as we commit to working towards a different renewed relationship with Indigenous peoples including the emerging Indigenous Church.
Today is a day to renew that commitment. Pray for the full implementation of the Calls to Action. Pray for the healing needed for Indigenous people across Canada in families and communities. Ask how your parish and diocese can engage in them. Commit to your own journey of reconciliation through education and action. May God grant us courage and strength to live into our commitment!
The Most Rev. Linda Nicholls
Primate, The Anglican Church of Canada
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