Manitoba

Church bells toll for MMIW at end of Truth and Reconciliation report

Anglican church bells tolled across Canada Wednesday for every missing and murdered indigenous woman in an echo of Justice Murray Sinclair's recommendation Tuesday that Canada hold a national inquiry into the nearly 1,200 cases.

As TRC wraps up, churches across Canada issue gestures of support for national inquiry

Anglican church bells tolled across Canada Wednesday for every missing and murdered indigenous woman in an echo of Justice Murray Sinclair's recommendation Tuesday that Canada hold a national inquiry into the nearly 1,200 cases that remain unsolved. 2:10

Anglican church bells tolled across Canada Wednesday for every missing and murdered indigenous woman in an echo of Justice Murray Sinclair's recommendation Tuesday that Canada hold a national inquiry into the nearly 1,200 cases.

"We are remembering them," said Reverend Paul Johnson, dean of Rupert's Land, who speaks for the Anglican Church in Manitoba.

Johnson said it's also to ensure the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission doesn't fade into the past, but becomes a focus of the present. 
Bells from Anglican Church of Canada locations from across Canada tolled June 3 at as the Truth and Reconciliation Committee came to a close. (CBC)

"We are ringing the bell today, as are many Anglican churches and cathedrals, 1,181 times."

The Anglican church apologized in 1993 for its role in running residential schools. But Johnson said the church still has a role to play in the terrible legacy that continues to this day. 

"We are very committed to an ongoing journey, however long it takes, and we assume it will take a long time as [Justice Murray Sinclair] said yesterday," he said. "Seven generations to get here. It's going to take a long time to work to reconcilation. We are firmly committed to that." 

Undoing legacy

But undoing that legacy will take a very long time, said Diane Redsky, executive director of the Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre, which works with aboriginal families in Winnipeg.
Reverend Paul Johnson said ringing the church bells is a symbolic gesture to ensure recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission are carried through. (CBC)

"Our community learned about violence and abuse in the residential schools, and so we have multiple generations of families. In some communities it's normalized. That is the sad reality of the outcome of what residential schools have had, even intergenerationally," she said. 

Redsky said it should not be surprising that substance abuse and addiction are part of the reality for many aboriginal people. 

"We have generations of people who have coped through alcohol and drugs and learned violence is normal," she said. 

Redsky said the Truth and Reconciliation report's recommendation to hold an inquiry into missing and murdered women is at the core of her organization's work. 

"Aboriginal families are not parenting their own children. It is an outcome [of] the residential schools. But we have to look at changing that. It can't continue on that trajectory."

She is not optimistic there will be a national inquiry, however, after Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt remained seated when Sinclair called for a national inquiry, while the audience around him rose to their feet to give Sinclair a standing ovation.

"It really was a slap in the face to our community," she said. 

Federal government against inquiry

The Harper government has consistently refused calls for a national inquiry on the issue.
Diane Redsky said violence and substance abuse have become normalized in some indigenous communities as a result of the residential school system. (CBC)

"He could have been respectful to that recommendation and [to] the families and people that have been affected by missing and murdered aboriginal women." 

Redsky said Valcourt lacks compassion and leadership. 

"I hope that other Canadians see this the way we see it, his lack of leadership to step up," she said. 

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