The Anglican Church of Canada’s Indigenous Healing Fund, which has been in operation since 1992, has allocated more than $2 million in grants towards healing work to date.
The fund is one of the church’s responses to the legacy of residential schools for aboriginal children. It supports the sharing and renewing of spiritual and cultural traditions and the struggle for self-determination.
The fund offers grants for specific projects to indigenous communities, organizations, groups, and diocesan indigenous councils. It is administered by the Healing Response Committee (formerly Residential Schools Advisory Group) to encourage and initiate programs, which help educate and heal.
To date, more than $2 million has been granted in support of 218 projects. “The total amount may sound like a drop in the bucket considering it was raised over a 12-year period, but it is very significant in that the projects supported have been very enriching,” said Ellie Johnson, Director of Partnership.
Recently the fund has seen an increase in the number of applications for new projects. This is because the federal government’s healing foundation which was allocated $350 million dollars, only focuses on two areas, sexual and physical abuse. It does not focus on issues like loss of language and reconciliation, which is the gap that the church is filling, said Ms. Johnson.
The budget for the fund is $300,000 per year, and the maximum grant given to a project is $15,000 per year.
An essential part of the healing process often involves sharing experiences with other school survivors and with members of the wider community, said Esther Wesley, Indigenous Healing Fund coordinator for General Synod.
In the early 90s, the projects funded concentrated more on conferences and reunions, “because people were just beginning to disclose the abuse that they had suffered in the residential schools,” said Ms. Wesley. Now the projects are focusing more on capacity building within the communities. “We are supporting more training of trainers’ projects to help people who are in the frontlines,” she said.
The responses from those who participated in some of the conferences or workshops have been positive, said Ms Wesley. She notes the case of two elderly women who for the first time in their lives disclosed the abuse that they went through during one of the conferences they attended.
However, there is still a lot of denial, Ms Wesley added. “A number of those abused still find it hard to talk about what they went through. It is always the first step that is hard. Once they start talking about it, then the healing and reconciliation process starts.”
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