May 25, 2010

The third of occasional updates on the work of the Anglican Church of Canada as it takes its part in healing and reconciliation between Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals. These updates are written by Archdeacon Jim Boyles, consultant on residential schools.

A Tenting Community—the First TRC National Event

The Forks in Winnipeg will be dotted with over 20 tents in mid June as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s first national event comes to life. The opening ceremonies take place on Wednesday June 16 in the morning, with the commissioners; the Assembly of First Nations’ National Chief Shawn Atleo; the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development Chuck Strahl; church leaders including Anglican Primate Archbishop Fred Hiltz; and representatives of the schools’ survivors all taking part.

Up to 10,000 are expected to attend this four-day event. Participants will be able to visit the learning tent where displays of the schools and information binders will be available. There is an interfaith tent too where survivors can meet with church representatives and where each denomination will have two or three one-hour periods to make presentations or engage in discussion. Also, three Living the Dialogue sessions are planned for this tent:

  • Native Traditional Spirituality In Conversation with Christianity (Thursday morning)
  • Paths to Reconciliation (Thursday evening)
  • We are All Treaty People (Friday morning)

A survivors’ tent will be available for former residential school students to meet and talk. There will be a commissioners’ tent too where sharing circles will be scheduled with the commissioners participating with survivors. Other tents include one for artists, one for sports, one for Inuit and Métis people, and several others.

The invitation is open. All Anglicans, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, are encouraged to attend, particularly those in Manitoba and northwestern Ontario.

The Settlement Agreement—Independent Assessment Process

In addition to the Common Experience Payments, the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement also makes provision for an Independent Assessment Process whereby a former student who suffered serious sexual or physical abuse may apply for additional compensation. A private hearing is usually held before an adjudicator, who is responsible for questioning any witnesses and drawing out all evidence. The adjudicator then makes a decision as to compensation based on standards set within the Agreement itself. The federal government is responsible for paying all successful claims. By February 8, 14,879 claims had been received. Of these, 4,229 have been adjudicated and $325 million had been paid to applicants. The application deadline is September 19, 2012.

The Doctrine of Discovery at General Synod 2010

General Synod meets in Halifax at St. Mary’s University from June 3 to 11. Several resolutions that will be debated touch on Aboriginal concerns. The Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples is bringing a resolution that asks synod to repudiate and renounce the Doctrine of Discovery as fundamentally opposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ. In its comment on the resolution the council says this:

The Doctrine of Discovery is a phrase describing a consistent set of judgments and acts by colonizing Western societies over the past 500 years. It begins with the idea of Terra Nullius, an uninhabited land. If such a land is “discovered,” the persons or powers that make the discovery have the right of discovery, meaning that they may own, rule, and exploit this land as they see fit. Indigenous Peoples, in the Doctrine of Discovery, are not seen as inhabiting the land.

Although it has touched every aspect of life in North America for centuries, most people are unaware of The Doctrine of Discovery. The Doctrine continues to be the central animating factor in the dispossession and oppression of Indigenous Peoples, in the Americas and around the world. All the Western institutions that now govern so many aspects of Indigenous life see the People of the Land through the distorted lens of the Doctrine of Discovery. This is especially true of the churches that are a part of the Western Cultural framework. Beyond its direct influence on Indigenous Peoples, we can see that this way of thinking is a contributing part of the Western attitude towards Creation and our environment, giving permission to treat this sacred gift as a human storehouse that can be plundered without restraint.

The resolution and explanation are found on the General Synod website.

Anglican Healing Fund

This fund, established in 1991, assists Aboriginal communities by supporting projects that aim to bring healing and reconciliation, with a particular focus on the harms done by the residential school system. In 2009 the fund supported 33 programs with grants totaling $440, 542. Two groups receiving grants were Kwayaciiwin Education Resource Centre, Sioux Lookout, Ontario and Taking Back Our Culture Association, Port Alberni, British Columbia. Since its beginning the Fund has disbursed over $4 million in such grants. Money collected from dioceses in support of the Settlement Agreement is now being channeled through the Healing Fund and this arrangement should enable support at the same level for the next ten years.

Kairos and Indigenous Rights

KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives is a web of people and partnerships dedicated to a faithful and decisive response to God’s call for respect for the earth and justice for its people. The Anglican Church of Canada is a founding member and participant. One aspect of its work is in the area of Indigenous Rights.

Through public education and action campaigns, KAIROS aims to:

  • Change federal Aboriginal policy by calling for recognition of Aboriginal title and nationhood, and the implementation of Aboriginal land, treaty and inherent rights.
  • Promote awareness of important and positive recommendations such as the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, and critique legislation such as the First Nations Governance Act.
  • Empower local KAIROS groups to challenge racism and stand in solidarity with Aboriginal Peoples.
  • Educate through resources that challenge our society’s relationship with Aboriginal peoples, and help us to envision a new relationship.

Visit the KAIROS website for more information.

Chief Wilton Littlechild, TRC commissioner

In 1976, Chief Wilton Littlechild had the distinction of being the first Treaty First Nation person to acquire his law degree from the University of Alberta. He received his Bachelor of Physical Education Degree in 1967 and his Master’s Degree in Physical Education in 1975.

An avid sportsman and athlete, he has served as a coach and founded of the North American Indigenous games. He is currently working on the World Indigenous Nations Games, which are scheduled for 2012 in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Chief Littlechild is a respected lawyer and operates the law firm of J. Wilton Littlechild, Barrister and Solicitor, which is situated in the Ermineskin Reserve.

Chief Littlechild served as a Member of Parliament from 1988 to 1993 for the riding of Wetaskiwin-Rimby. He served as a parliamentary delegate to the United Nations. He has just completed his second and final term as the North American representative to the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

In October 2006, Chief Littlechild was elected by the chiefs of Treaties 6, 7, 8 (Alberta) to serve as regional chief for a three-year term. He is married to Helen Peacock, and is the father of three children: Teddi, Neil and Megan.

For more information contact Henriette Thompson, Director of Partnerships, General Synod, the Anglican Church of Canada, 80 Hayden St. Toronto, ON M4Y 3G4, (416) 924-9199 ext. 213.