Primate adds his voice to support for jailed aboriginal leaders

Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, has added his support for Northern Ontario aboriginal leaders jailed for their defence of traditional lands.

In a letter to Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, Archbishop Hiltz said that the jailing of the six leaders for contempt of court “has caused a serious impasse between the Indigenous peoples of Canada and the Government of Ontario, arising out of the continual imposition of the powers and values of colonizers.”

The full text of the Primate’s letter follows:

March 20, 2008

Premier Dalton McGuinty
Ontario Provincial Legislature
Queen’s Park
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1A1

Dear Premier Dalton McGuinty,

On behalf of the Anglican Church of Canada I write to express my deep concern over the recent incarceration on March 17, 2008 of Chief Donny Morris, Deputy Chief Jack Mackay and four other leaders from the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation, who acted in defence of their traditional lands and against the threat posed by the Platinex Inc. exploration company.

I stand behind the Rt. Rev. David Ashdown, bishop of the diocese of Keewatin, which embraces the traditional native lands of the KI Nation around Trout Lake. In a letter dated March 17, 2008 Bishop Ashdown commended the Chief and Council of the KI First Nation for their commitment to the land, which is “a sacred trust which must be respected and guarded not only for those living today but for future generations as well.”

I stand behind Grand Chief Stan Beardy of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, himself a faithful Christian and Anglican, who noted in a recent statement on the Ontario Superior Court ruling that “the Government of Ontario is indeed above the law as the Province continues to neglect supreme court rulings to consult and accommodate First Nations prior to resource development.”

I stand behind the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples and the National Indigenous Anglican Bishop, who stated today in a letter to you that the jail sentence of the six KI leaders is “deeply troubling,” and that the sentence “is not only a dangerous violation of Aboriginal Rights, it also contradicts a growing consensus towards the stewardship of the land on the part of all Ontario citizens.”

I believe that the jail sentence of these leaders has caused a serious impasse between the Indigenous peoples of Canada and the Government of Ontario, arising out of the continual imposition of the powers and values of colonizers. It appears that Chief Morris and his council accepted Justice Smith’s ruling because of an inability to continue paying the escalating legal fees for defending their suit. Now in jail, they are paying the costs with their lives.

Earlier this month, I participated with other church leaders in a tour of Aboriginal and Church Leaders, Remembering the Children, to raise the awareness of the churches and Canadian public of the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to be appointed by the federal government of Canada. For the healing and reconciliation that is needed to heal the harmful legacy of the Residential School system, there must be a huge commitment on the part of the churches and the federal and provincial governments of Canada to justice and self-determination for Indigenous peoples.

I appeal to your government to work diligently with the KI First Nation in the interest of a fair and just solution to the impasse, and the freeing of those who are jailed.

Please know of my thoughts and prayers as you give immediate attention to the urgent matter.



The Most Rev. Fred Hiltz

cc: The Chief and Council, Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation
Grand Chief Stan Beardy, Nishnwbe Aski Nation
The Rt. Rev. David Ashdown, Bishop of Keewatin
The Rt. Rev. Mark MacDonald, National Anglican Indigenous Bishop
The Ven. Dr. Sidney Black, the Rev. Gloria Moses, co-chairs, The Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples


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