Indigenous leaders to share knowledge on climate change at gathering of world's religions

The seventh annual Parliament of the World’s Religions gathering is taking place at the Metro Toronto Convention centre. Inside the convention centre, Indigenous leaders have created a Lodge of Nations where teaching sessions will take place.

7th annual Parliament of World's Religions happening in Toronto

The Lodge of Nations is a combination clan building representing the Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee, stewards of the Dish With One Spoon treaty territory that the City of Toronto sits on. (Rhiannon Johnson/CBC)

Indigenous spiritual leaders from Canada are sitting down with spiritual and religious leaders from across the world over the next few days to share ideas about how to approach issues of climate change.

The seventh annual Parliament of the World's Religions gathering is taking place at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in downtown Toronto. Inside the convention centre, Indigenous leaders have created a Lodge of Nations where teaching sessions will take place.

"I wanted to see our traditional societies and our nations be alongside some of the mainstream religions and denominations," said Bob Goulais, co-chair of the Indigenous working group.

Goulais is Anishinaabe from Nipissing First Nation in northern Ontario.

"We all know that the environment and Mother Earth is hurting," he said.

Indigenous, spiritual and religious leaders from across the world are gathering in Toronto to discuss approaches to climate change. (Rhiannon Johnson/CBC)

"In this age of reconciliation, Indigenous spirituality, Indigenous worldview and our perspectives are going to be key to the future of our planet."

Some of the leading Indigenous voices in the fight against climate change, like Jim Dumont, Autumn Peltier and Perry McLeod, will be at the conference. They will be speaking on topics such as how to approach climate change from an Indigenous perspective, spiritual relationships with water and Earth consciousness.

Finding common ground

"The sun is the same sun that shines and makes the corn grow for all the Natives in North America," said Tom Porter, an Elder, cultural education and spiritual leader from the Mohawk Nation of Akwesasne, which straddles the Ontario-Quebec and Canada-U.S. borders.

"It's the same sun that makes whatever grows in Europe grow. Something happened in the history that caused superficial ways to deter people from seeing and relating to universal truths. 

Tom Porter and Mike Mitchell are both from the Mohawk Nation of Akwesasne. (Rhiannon Johnson/CBC)

"The only way we're going to be able to see that is if we peel all of those Christmas decorations off so we can see the real tree again instead of the artificial shiny objects."

This is the seventh Parliament of the World's Religion Gathering and the first time it has taken place in Canada. 

"It gives us a chance to sit with all these different minds and maybe they get a chance to hear from us because for how many generations we've been doing all the listening to all the different religions and governments of the world," said Mike Mitchell, previous Grand Chief of Akwesasne.  

"We see this as a point in time where we can share some of our traditional understanding, our traditional values, relationships and history. I'm here to learn as much as share with them what we know," said Mitchell. 

Diane Longboat, from Six Nations of the Grand River, is co-chair of the Indigenous working group. (Rhiannon Johnson/CBC)

Diane Longboat, co-chair of the Indigenous working group and a Haudenosaunee spiritual teacher from Six Nations of the Grand River, said the meeting is important because "it comes at a time and a place where truth is going to be told, where reconciliation is possible, and where change in human consciousness is going to unfold."

The gathering takes place Nov. 2-6.

About the Author

Rhiannon Johnson

Rhiannon Johnson is an Anishinaabe journalist from Hiawatha First Nation based in Toronto. She has been with the Indigenous unit since 2017 focusing on Indigenous life and experiences throughout Ontario. You can reach her at rhiannon.johnson@cbc.ca and on Twitter @rhijhnsn.