A massive education campaign is expected in Canada about the residential schools and the work of healing and reconciliation with aboriginal people. The Anglican, United, and Presbyterian churches are expected to roll out campaigns in the coming months.
More than 100 lay and ordained representatives have pledged their commitment to train more leaders and volunteers. When they’re finished, they say, every church member will know the history of the Indian residential schools.
The participants, who have been commissioned as “Ambassadors of Reconciliation,” gathered in Ontario last November to receive training and resources. The goal is to help them to help aboriginal and non-aboriginal church members to “actively work together to build right relationships with each other.”
At the opening session, a councillor of the Mnjikaning First Nation, Chippewas of Rama, on whose traditional land the conference centre is located, said it was “wonderful to see churches” preparing for the work of the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).
In discussions, many participants underscored the importance of looking at the residential schools issue from a wider perspective, in particular, the aboriginal peoples’ access to land and resources. They said that the federal government has not fully implemented land and treaty rights.
Chad Beharriell of the United Church of Canada urged participants to be part of initiatives such as a letter-writing campaign to pressure the Canadian government to sign the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. He said another initiative is to follow tribunal hearings involving a human rights complaint filed by the Assembly of First Nations, which cited that the level of funding allocated for aboriginal child welfare is 20 to 25 per cent lower than that provided for the rest of Canada.