Primate urges Harper to consult with AFN

Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, and National Indigenous Bishop Mark MacDonald have written the Prime Minister urging the government to consult with native people before making an apology for residential schools.

The federal government is expected to make the apology on June 11.

Phil Fontaine, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, has also been calling on Ottawa to involve native people in the drafting of an apology.

The two Anglican church leaders congratulated the federal government on the selection of members of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, but expressed concern that the apology appears to be taking shape with inadequate consultation.

Failure to consult, the letter says, “may result in further injuring the victims of this broken part of our history, and call into question the genuineness of the apology.”

The full text of the letter follows.

May 23, 2008

The Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper
Prime Minister of Canada
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Dear Prime Minister Harper

As the Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada and the National Indigenous Anglican Bishop, we write to express the positive response of our Church to the long awaited announcement of the Truth and Reconciliation Commissioners, and to the expected apology of the Government of Canada to survivors of Indian Residential Schools.

The selection of the chair and commissioners gives evidence of careful searching and discernment and we commend you for their appointments. The readiness of the Government of Canada to offer an apology before Parliament and the citizens of Canada also marks a very significant stage in our journey toward wholeness as a country of many peoples.

We are very concerned, however, to learn that your Government appears to be drafting the apology in isolation of those to whom it is to be presented.

We stand with National Chief Phil Fontaine of the Assembly of First Nations who has gone on record for making repeated requests that Indigenous peoples be involved in the process of preparing the apology.

Consultation with Indigenous peoples is part of the terms of the IRS Settlement Agreement. We believe it is also fundamental to the act of apology and the healing it is intended to promote between the institution of the Government of Canada and the survivors of Indian Residential Schools.

The Anglican Church of Canada colluded with the Indian Residential School system and the agenda of assimilation of which it was an instrument. We know it has caused and continues to cause profound harm to Indigenous peoples, their families and communities. We believe that, to bring about healing, an apology must fully acknowledge the nature of the injury or injuries caused, and that this can only be discovered by talking directly with victims. We believe too, that to bring about healing, an apology must arise from intense listening and attention.

When the Government of Australia issued an apology to its Aboriginal people in February of this year, it was only after wide consultation with Aboriginal leaders. Canada should do no less.

Mr. Prime Minister, we urge you in the days that remain before June 11, to press Minister Chuck Strahl to consult immediately, openly, and directly with the AFN about the text of the apology. We fear that failure to do so may result in further injuring the victims of this broken part of our history, and call into question the genuineness of the apology.

We write this in the spirit of the prayer associated with Remembering the Children, the Aboriginal and Church Leaders? Tour in March of this year. The prayer read in part, ?We dare to dream of a path of reconciliation where apology from the heart leads to healing of the heart. Hear our prayer of hope and guide this country of Canada on a new and different path.?

We await the Government of Canada?s apology with hope and expectation that it will be founded on true dialogue and a sincere commitment to healing and ultimately to reconciliation.


The Most Rev. Fred Hiltz

The Rt. Rev. Mark MacDonald
National Indigenous Anglican Bishop

cc: The Honourable Chuck Strahl, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development;
Mr. Phil Fontaine, National Chief, the Assembly of First Nations.

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