Fire rages on a mountainside in British Columbia, where at least 560 wildfires were reported to tear through Northern B.C.  Photo: Shawn Talbot/Sutterstock
Fire rages on a mountainside in British Columbia, where at least 560 wildfires were reported to tear through Northern B.C. Photo: Shawn Talbot/Sutterstock

It’s been more than a month since the Alkali Lake wildfire blazed through Telegraph Creek in British Columbia, and it could take weeks more before its residents can return.

Officials say that the Alkali Lake wildfire was the largest that they have ever seen in history. By August 23rd, more than 560 fires had been recorded.

The entire community of Telegraph Creek is reported to have evacuated the area. Fifty six structures were lost to the fires, including the Roman Catholic Church of St. Theresa and its rectory. Twenty seven of these buildings were residential homes.

For a community that is already facing a housing crisis, these fires have been especially devastating.

The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF), the Anglican Church of Canada’s global aid agency, has donated $5,000 to the Diocese of Yukon to support rebuilding efforts.

PWRDF executive director Will Postma gave the relief funds to Larry Robertson, Bishop of Yukon Diocese, to support the mostly Indigenous community. In an email to the Anglican Journal, Robertson said the diocese would work with the local band to help those impacted by the wildfires.

In addition to the PWRDF grant, Robertson said that the diocese is grateful for the support that they have received from other ministries—including almost $1,300 donated by members of Sacred Circle.

Jeffery Stanley, left, will handle the church’s suicide prevention work in British Columbia, Yukon and Western Arctic; Yolanda Bird, right, will cover Alberta and Saskatchewan, and, if necessary, also Manitoba and northern Ontario.
Jeffery Stanley, left, will handle the church’s suicide prevention work in British Columbia, Yukon and Western Arctic; Yolanda Bird, right, will cover Alberta and Saskatchewan, and, if necessary, also Manitoba and northern Ontario. Photo: Contributed

The Anglican Church of Canada has added two new suicide prevention workers to its staff working in Indigenous ministry.

Jeffery Stanley, a master of divinity student at the Vancouver School of Theology, and Yolanda Bird, a former member of Council of General Synod (CoGS) – with extensive experience working with children and youth – have been hired to help their Indigenous communities work through the historical traumas of colonialism.

The new hires will be working full-time, and will provide much needed support to the church’s current part-time Indigenous suicide prevention worker, the Rev. Norm Casey.

Stanley, who will be based in Gingolx, a Nisga’a community on the Pacific coast of British Columbia, northeast of Prince Rupert, will cover British Columbia, Yukon and Western Arctic. Bird will be based in Montreal Lake First Nation, about 100 km north of Prince Albert, Sask., and will cover Alberta, Saskatchewan, and if necessary, also Manitoba and northern Ontario.

The work will combine Anglican and Indigenous traditional spiritual teachings to restore a sense of purpose and identity, especially to young Indigenous people.

Both Stanley and Bird have been personally affected by suicide; Stanley’s twin brother took his life in 2003, and Bird’s best friend committed suicide in 2016.

According to the Centre for Suicide Prevention, a branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association, suicide and self-inflicted harm are the most common causes of death for First Nations youth and adults aged up to 44 years. Canada’s Inuit youth have among the highest suicide rates in the world, and are 11 times the national average.

Stanley’s background includes schooling in suicide prevention and youth ministry, and his past work, he says, included significant work with children and youth—including teaching the Nisga’a language to children from kindergarten to Grade 7. He finds suicide prevention work to be both a blessing and a challenge. This is because of the impact that suicide has personally had on him.

Similarly, Bird has been working with children and youth for many years.

Bird says that she “pretty much grew up around the church.” She is the daughter of Adam Halkett, Anglican Indigenous bishop of Missinippi. She served on CoGS from 2001-2004, and was involved with the Anglican Indigenous Network, which brings together Indigenous people from across the worldwide Anglican Communion, for about nine years.

“We’re looking forward to working with them and developing a strategy that will hopefully alleviate suicides in our communities,” says Ginny Doctor, Indigenous ministries coordinator. “It’s a start. It’s not going to end everything really quick, but we’ve got to start somewhere.”

"“I think it shows a lot of faith in our ministry, in that it’s about self-determination, and that we are capable of providing leadership to take care of our own folks in our diocese and to build a ministry that God is calling us to do.” —Ginny Doctor, Coordinator of Indigenous Ministries"
Photo: Anglican Video

The Ecclesiastical Province of Rupert’s Land has voted to create two new suffragan bishop positions, one for northern Manitoba and one for northern Ontario. The appointment of the two new bishops will bring the total number of active Indigenous Anglican bishops to eight.

Archbishop Greg Kerr-Wilson, Metropolitan of Rupert’s Land, says that the recent push to create the two positions reflects wider changes in the church regarding attitudes towards Indigenous self-determination.

“I think in this case, the right factors came into play, the right people in the right context, and … heightened awareness amongst the broader province of the importance and significance of Indigenous self-determination in the life of the church, and the ability to have a self-determining church within the Anglican Church of Canada,” the archbishop said.

Both suffragan bishops will be considered part of the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweseh. However, the bishop for northern Manitoba will also be responsible for the northern part of the Diocese of Brandon—particularly the Deanery of The Pas—and likely parts of the Diocese of Saskatchewan.

Benefits for Indigenous communities

National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald called the creation of the new bishop positions “a huge shot in the arm in multiple ways” for Indigenous ministry within the church and self-determination. He further notes that it will provide Indigenous bishops with a higher profile in the national House of Bishops, as well as a stronger voice in numerous councils of the church.

“I think it shows a lot of faith in our ministry, in that it’s about self-determination, and that we are capable of providing leadership to take care of our own folks in our diocese and to build a ministry that God is calling us to do,” says Ginny Doctor, Coordinator of Indigenous Ministries. “And I think people are finally beginning to realize that we can take it on, so that’s significant.”

One of its most noteworthy impacts will be the ability of the Indigenous bishops to communicate in the local language of their communities. Bishop MacDonald said that the bishop for northern Manitoba will undoubtedly speak one of the region’s three main dialects of Cree, while the bishop for northern Ontario will be able to speak Oji-Cree.

Another advantage of the suffragan bishops will be their ability to provide direct pastoral care to remote communities and to preside over ceremonies such as baptisms, confirmations, and weddings—providing valuable support to area clergy, many of whom are currently non-stipendiary.


A key concern going forward will be making sure that the new positions for the bishops are financially sustainable.

The Diocese of Brandon has committed $56,000 over the next four years to help Mishamikoweesh finance the new bishop position.

“Mishamikoweesh and Brandon share northern Manitoba, but those boundaries are really colonial holdovers,” says Bishop William Cliff of the Diocese of Brandon. “They’re diocesan boundaries from old days, and [for] the folks in the north of Manitoba, especially the Cree folks, those boundaries don’t mean a lot.”

Though a budget has been set for the next four years, funding will require an increase in contributions from local congregations. Bishop MacDonald, however, said that “there is quite a bit of confidence that [congregations] will respond generously to the increasing pastoral care that this position will allow.”

Despite all the challenges, Archbishop Kerr-Wilson—who with Bishop MacDonald will be overseeing the election and consecration of the bishops—expressed excitement over the progress being made, and for those who have long championed the cause of appointing area bishops in the north.

“I’m very pleased that after all these years they’ve been able to get to this place,” says Archbishop Kerr. “And I would ask for the church broadly to be praying for the support and the strength of the Spirit as they move forward in this new ministry.”

A tentative date has been set in early September for the election and consecration of the new bishops.

Leading clergy from the Diocese of the Arctic attend the graduation of students from the Arthur Turner Training School (ATTS). Front row, L-R: Bishop David Parsons, Esau Tatatopik, Annie Keenainak, Martha Kunuk, Manasee Ulayuk, Bishop Darren McCartney. ATTS Director Joseph Royal is standing at left in the second row from the front. Submitted photo

The first graduating class of the renewed Arthur Turner Training School (ATTS) is ready to begin its ministry.

Since the Iqaluit based school—in the Diocese of the Arctic—reopened its doors in 2016, this class of ministers has been highly anticipated by the diocese and their communities. This is because each of the new graduates is Inuit, and is bilingual in Inuktitut and English. Bilingualism in both of these languages is highly needed for the graduates as they will be ministering throughout the north.

“It’s a big deal, [for] a couple reasons,” says ATTS director, the Rev. Joseph Royal. “First of all, we just don’t have enough ministers in the diocese. There are parishes all over the north that want a minister and can’t get one.”

“But also, all the graduates are Inuit. They’re bilingual. So they’re going to go to a community in the north, and unlike someone coming from the south, they don’t have to learn a new culture or language. They have that already.”

“Not only do we have new ministers,” he adds. “We have really good ones who are trained well, but who also know the culture. It’s their culture and language.”

The new graduates are: the Rev. Sarassie Arragutainag, from the community of Sanikiluaq;  the Rev. Annie Keenainak, from Pangnirtung;  the Rev. Martha Kunuk, from Iqaluit;  the Rev. Esau Tatatoapik, from Arctic Bay; and the Rev. Manasee Ulayuk, from Hall Beach.

At ATTS, the students learned through a combination of classroom study and practical parish ministry. All practical parish ministry was conducted in St. Jude Cathedral, or at a small community church. Most of the ministry was conducted in Inuktitut.

In spite of the learning curve, Ulayuk describes his time at the Arthur Turner Training School to be generally positive and rewarding.

“I believe it was my call to come into this college and learn the biblical, to be part of the ministry,” Ulayuk says.

The bulk of the core curriculum was taught by the Rev. Joseph Royal, ATTS Director. However, students also received tutelage from some visiting instructors.

Some of these instructors were National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald, retired Arctic bishop Andrew Atagotaaluk, and current Arctic Bishop David Parsons; Prof. Wanda Malcolm of Wycliffe College, who taught a course on self-care and pastoral psychology; Associate Prof. Ian Henderson, who teaches New Testament Studies at McGill University; and the Rev. David Luckman, Ireland team leader for the international mission agency Crosslinks.

“I enjoy so much that I made a good relationship with the people coming from the south and also from the north to teach us,” Ulayuk said. “It was really helpful.”

Supplements to the core curriculum focused on community outreach, ministry to youth and children, pastoral psychology, counselling, and navigating various crises and emotional problems that may occur within communities.

“The demands of the north for ministry are unique,” Royal says. “Communities are isolated, and compared to the south, they’re smaller. […] The northern context was always the focus in our curriculum.”

Classes for the next cohort are expected to begin in January.

Inuit cohort graduates from Arthur Turner Training School

The first new graduating class of the Arthur Turner Training School (ATTS) is ready to begin its ministry. Since the Iqaluit-based school—located in the Diocese of the Arctic—reopened its doors in 2016, this class of ministers has been highly anticipated by both the diocese and their communities. This is partly because each of the new … Continued

Photo of The Cathedral Church of St. James.
The Cathedral Church of St. James. Photo Mhalifu/Wikipedia Commons

The leadership gap in Athabasca has been filled by an excellent candidate, with first-rate skills and a deep understanding of the region. Athabasca is a deanery in north-central Alberta, going as far west as the British Columbia border, as far north as the Northwest Territory border, as far west as Saskatchewan, and almost to Edmonton in the south. The new dean, the Very Rev. Jason Haggstrom, was installed on September 17, 2017. He has a wide range of plans, including starting new ministries and continuing successful ones, and desiring for wider communities, especially in local Cree and Métis communities. 

Shield of the Diocese of AthabascaHaggstrom has a long history in remote Western Canada. He grew up in a small town between Smithers and Terrace, in the northern interior of British Columbia, earning his first theology degrees in the Okanogan. This experience gave him some context for his new deanery. However, he has experience outside of the region. For example, he moved around quite a bit after graduation, working 15 years with the Church Army, an evangelical and mission group founded in the late 1920s. Haggstrom’s work with the Church Army included social service and general outreach work, and involved travelling throughout southeastern Ontario. He looks forward to spending the next decade in Athabasca, until his retirement. 

Though he is new to the parish of St. James’ Cathedral, he talks of the diocese being filled with tightly knit communities, with a small-town intimacy. Part of this knowing is especially common among the Cree and Métis people. In these parishes, the discussion around reconciliation centres on a yearning for authentic community. 

Haggstrom enjoys the challenges of reconciliation and community building. The cathedral is a busy place, filled with child care, food banks, and related services. Haggstrom also runs a prison ministry, visiting members of his flock who are incarcerated. There is also an attempt to extend communities of clergy. He notes a new retreat for clergy, who come together to discuss the spiritual needs of the parishes they mentor. This occurred for the first time in autumn 2017, but the hope is that it will be at least an annual event. 

This does not mean that the community is not without its hardships. This year could be considered economically difficult. The region where Haggstrom is dean is more about agriculture than resource extraction, though he notes the economy rests on each. This year was hard on both the farmers and the oil riggers. Canola is the major cash crop for this region, and many of his parishioners depend on it to make a living. There was a canola blight, which affected most of the crops. This combined with a worldwide depression in oil prices, so that according to Haggstrom, “People cannot live as high as they did when oil was 138 a barrel.” 

Even with the economic downturns, Haggstrom has a distinct hope that the community will thrive, with an ecumenical and pastoral focus that will help expand the influence of the church throughout the region.

Overview photo of the village of IIvujivik
The village of Ivujivik. Photo: Contributed

by Melanie Delva
Reconciliation Animator for
The Anglican Church of Canada.

This past December, I had the honour of traveling the Eastern portion of the Diocese of the Arctic with Bishop David Parsons, Esther Wesley (Coordinator of the Anglican Healing Fund) and the Rev. Victor Johnson (Regional Dean of Ungava Deanery). We traveled both the Hudson and Ungava Coasts of Nunavik, including 9 communities ranging in size from 200 to 1,000 people. The only way to access the villages is by plane, so we traveled mostly by Dash-8 and Twin Otter planes—a first for me! Anglican Mission in this area began in 1882. A couple of the communities have clergy, but most are led by dedicated and unpaid lay ministers who serve as everything from preachers of the Word, to nurses, counsellors and church building managers.

Photo of St. Columba's Church
St. Columba’s Church. Photo: Contributed

Everything was new and exciting for me — from my first visit to the local Co-op general store which sells everything from milk to rabbit skins, to the ski-doos whipping up and down the street through the towns. The first thing that really struck me though, was the quality of light in the North.  It is very hard to describe. The light that time of year was low, but striking and the sky radiant with sun dogs. I couldn’t possibly describe it properly but it took my breath away everywhere we went.

The learning and “take-aways” for me from the trip are complex, and I am still working through them. I learned a lot from the people, the land, the travel itself. I was incredibly inspired by the faith of the people. It is brilliant in its immediacy—God is seen and known everywhere and in all things and people. I was humbled as well — humbled by what I take for granted, my consumerism in comparison to what is available and valued in the North.  Finally, I was humbled by the weather—vicious blizzards that brought everything to a standstill and had us trapped in our little hotel for days.  I tend to think I am “in charge” of my life and it really reminded me of Who is really at the helm!  I am awash in gratitude. To my travel companions who taught me so much and were so great to travel with, to the people we met who were unending in their kind welcomes and hospitality, and to God, whose grace in giving me the gift of this experience is above all to be praised.

Last fall, 25 Roman Catholic and Anglican clergy travelled from all over northern Alberta to attend what they hope will become an annual ecumenical meeting. The meeting addressed concerns about how to work together in the North and how to be better Christians to newcomers. The Anglican area bishop, Fraser Lawton, described the meeting as a “conversation about the things they had in common, and a good start.” 

The conference asked questions about missions: what missions now look like, who is called to be a missionary, and how best to support those who are called. These introductory conversations made for a solid footing for deepened mutual understanding. Lawton discussed the central goal of these questions as a kind of fellowship. The Bishop wished that those present would be “taking up time with people’s concerns, and connecting to each other.” 

The connecting with each other focused on the similarity in challenges shared by Anglican and Roman
Catholic priests in Athabasca. The mission work concerned itself with both outside congregations and with local parishes. The concerns brought forth included issues of lay engagement. Lawton noted that both Catholic and Anglican churches continue to be concerned with how little people know their faith, and by extension, whether the clergy have “done a good job with catechesis.” 

The question about what a catechetical good job looks like also encompassed the clergy. They noted that people in their dioceses were less interested in active parish life than they once were. Lawton described the problem as partly “being in competition for people’s time” and how to make church life a priority again. 

There are other factors, which are slightly more of an issue for the Roman Catholic population, as a large number of their priests are from outside Canada. This intersects with populations in places like Grand Prairie, where immigrants in the service industry have made towns much more diverse. These concerns about newcomers, and people who have been in parishes for as long as Alberta has been a province, means that there should be a number of solutions for what could be a tricky problem. Lawton balances questions of Anglican engagement with hearing how Catholic partners in faith can “carry out ministry and are able to help” with mutual mission work, catechesis, and community building. 

These concerns and challenges can often be met by open and honest communication, and through explicit planning. These are the ongoing goals of the Anglican diocese of Athabasca, and also of their fellow Christians. The conference is the first step in opening an ecumenical process that will hopefully bear much fruit. 

A train derailment seven months ago, near Churchill, Man., leaves a rural community isolated. The government and the company that runs the train have been squabbling in court. Little solution seems imminent.
A train derailment seven months ago, near Churchill, Man., leaves a rural community isolated. The government and the company that runs the train have been squabbling in court. Little solution seems imminent. Photo: Shutterstock.

About seven months ago, a flood washed out the sole rail connection to Churchill, Man. That connection allowed resources to travel north (including fuel and food) and people to travel south (including those with doctors’ appointments). In the intervening nine months, OmniTRAX, the company that operates the railroads, has argued that responsibility for replacing the line rests with the federal government, saying it is a proviso of the constitution. The Prime Minister’s Office counterclaims that legislation under NAFTA requires OmniTRAX to repair those same lines. On October 13, the federal government gave OmniTRAX 30 days to replace the tracks. Months after that ultimatum, the rail has yet to be replaced or repaired.

From the very beginning, Churchill has been caught in a mess of railroad and challenging construction hurdles. The first railroad was built over a 50-year period, beginning in the late 1880s, with the station finally finished in 1929. The landscape, with rocky outcroppings and spongy muskegs, explains some of this extended timeline. (With global climate change, much of the permafrost has become boggier, exacerbating the already unstable muskeg.) 

For almost 80 years, the railroad has not only provided a material connection to the rest of Canada, it has helped provide an identity for northern Manitoba communities. Being caught between the government and large corporations makes the delivery of goods and services impossible, and further isolates these towns. 

Bishop William G. Cliff, of the diocese of Brandon, sees this as a pastoral emergency. His congregants are in obvious distress. Speaking to him, he is understandably frustrated by this seemingly intractable fight. Cliff wrote to Prime Minister Trudeau in September, asking the federal government to “get on with it.” He received a note back in October, with vague reassurances of a forthcoming solution. The note was the last time he heard from the office. Cliff sees no solution but to build the line. 

There are companies willing to build the line, both in a larger financing sense, and with workers on the ground. The multi-national rail conglomerate Fairfax has shown some interest in possibly building those lines, for example. The holdup is due to the ongoing battles between OmniTRAX and the federal government. Bishop Cliff tells us that he has “no inside information—I am on the outside, banging my fist, wanting to be let in.”

The metaphor of wanting to be let in is a poignant one. The challenges of those who live in the North are often poorly understood, and people feel caught under heel. But there is some hope, given that communities like Churchill have fierce advocates with clergy like Bishop Cliff.

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Guiding Principles

Background on Partnerships

The Anglican Church of Canada has a strong tradition of establishing partnerships in and among parishes, dioceses, and other branches of the worldwide Anglican Communion. These partnerships can encourage, among other things, prayer, learning, face-to-face visits and material exchanges.

While the Council of the North does not administer partnerships between Northern and Southern parishes, we wish to support and uphold parishes that choose to walk together, sharing their experiences and supporting one another in mission. Past experience has shown that, if entered into in a spirit of mutuality, with a commitment to intentional relationship, a partnership journey has the potential to enrich and transform both sides.

These Guiding Principles have been developed as a means of assisting parishes who seek to begin or strengthen a partnership. As this ministry continues to develop we would like to thank The Suicide Prevention Project and several members of St. Matthew’s Parish in Ottawa for the wisdom they have contributed to this document, based on their extensive experience with parish partnerships.

The keys to successful partnerships

Whether a partnership is entered into because of a shared contact, geographic proximity, a galvanizing issue or simply out of a desire to learn and have a mutual exchange between North and South, the most successful and rewarding partnerships have, for the most part, shared many of the following characteristics and best practices:

  • Establish mutual expectations

Partnerships of depth and commitment can be achieved in a variety of ways:

  • weekly prayer.
  • letters.
  • phone calls.
  • exchange visits.
  • fundraising projects.

Whether the churches are to have a prayer partnership, charitable partnership, relational partnership or a blend of all three, it is important to be as precise as possible about mutual expectations at the outset. Both parties must come to the table with a similar understanding about what partnership means.

For example, if the partners will be sending and receiving material goods, whether mittens or choir robes or prayer books, needs must be defined, quantified and, most importantly, agreed-upon.

It is also recommended that a timeline for the partnership be established at the outset, as well. How and when will the partnership be dissolved? These are questions to be asked and, if not fully answered, at least considered when establishing a partnership.

  • Challenge cultural assumptions

Successful partnerships between Northern and Southern churches must be culturally sensitive. This means that both parties need to challenge any and all cultural assumptions and come to the table having let go of ethno-centric notions of superiority. They need to be committed to walking together as equals. This includes cultivating an ability to sit with differences, without judgments or jumping to conclusions—to listen, often without offering solutions.

Partners are strongly encouraged to educate themselves at the outset, to research the issues and understand the cultural context of the church with whom they seek to partner.

  • Establish direct lines of communication

Good communication is as essential to a successful parish partnership as it is to all relationships. This includes acknowledging and being sensitive to different cultures of communication between North and South. For example, many clergy in the North are non-stipendiary, which presents numerous challenges. Additionally, parishioners in the North may not have the same access to telecommunication infrastructure and technological tools as parishioners in the South.

For more information

Partnerships require a deep and abiding commitment on the part of both parishes but they are a wonderful way to strengthen the bonds of faith between North and South—a means of building authentic friendship, trust and essential support which is enriching to the church as a whole.

If you would like more information about parish partnerships, or to share your parish partnership story with the wider church, please contact:

Council of the North Communications
Email: [email protected]

CouncilofNorth_finalApplication for Regional Gatherings – Our Faith Our Hope (PDF)

Application for Regional Gatherings – Our Faith Our Hope (MS Word file)


The goal of this program is to create the means by which the members of the Council of the North may share our resources while we share the faith. The outcome will be a searchable list of resources which Council members are willing to share with one another. These resources will include pdf files, print resources, DVDs, locally-produced programs, resource personnel, and whatever other materials Council members have either purchased or developed in support of God’s mission.

Fill in one form for each resource your diocese is able to share. Fill in each line of the form as appropriate. For each resource, please indicate the name of the diocese and some keywords that will give some indication of the subject matter and theme of the resource. For example, “stewardship”, “financial development”, “discipleship”, “mission”, “Lay Readers”, “Bible Study”, “Canons”, etc. You will also be prompted to indicate the format, for example, “DVD”, “pdf file”, “printed workbook”, “printed course outline”, “CD”, “computer program on CD”, etc.

If you have any questions about the form please contact the communications team by email at [email protected].

NOTE: It is up to the diocese sharing the resource and the individual borrowing it to ensure that all licensing and copyright requirements are satisfactorily upheld.