All of the churches fund or have in the past funded healing, community-controlled culture and language and community-controlled education and relationship building projects, but to varying degrees.
The Call to Action:
We call upon church parties to the Settlement Agreement, in collaboration with Survivors and representatives of Aboriginal organizations, to establish permanent funding to Aboriginal People for:
i) Community-controlled healing and reconciliation projects.
ii) Community-controlled culture and language revitalization projects.
iii) Community-controlled education and relationship building projects.
iv) Regional dialogues for Indigenous spiritual leaders and youth to discuss spirituality, self-determination, and reconciliation.
All of the church parties to the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRSSA) fund or have in the past funded healing, community-controlled culture and language and community-controlled education and relationship building projects, but to varying degrees.
Only one church, however, the Anglican Church of Canada, co-ordinated dialogues with Indigenous spiritual leaders in direct response to this Call to Action.
In 2015, lawyers for Catholic churches across Canada successfully argued that the churches were no longer responsible for raising a promised $25 million that was to go toward healing and reconciliation projects. The money, part of the IRSSA, was supposed to help survivors, and also provide counselling and support for their families but most of that money was never raised.
In a private court hearing, lawyers successfully argued that the country’s Catholic churches had tried their best and had no more to give.
In September 2021, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a written public apology to residential school survivors and promised a renewed fundraising campaign with a goal of $30 million.
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) refers persons to Returning to Spirit, which it describes as a “non-profit healing and reconciliation initiative which organizes separate workshops for Aboriginal People, including former residential school survivors, and for non-Aboriginal people, including men and women religious who taught and administered the schools.” The CCCB is one of Returning to Spirit’s financial partners.
The Anglican Church of Canada offers up to $15,000 in grants through the Anglican Healing Fund, which supports local, community-led healing projects. The fund was created 25 years ago. But since the Truth and Reconciliation hearings occurred, the fund’s mandate is more closely defined.
In a written statement to CBC News, reconciliation animator Melanie Delva states “as a response to the ongoing legacy of the residential school system, grants from the healing fund are made to encourage and initiate programs that help heal, educate, and recover language and culture.”
The United Church of Canada’s Healing Fund “offers financial support to grassroots projects that focus on healing, language, learning and cultural restoration,” according to the United Church of Canada website.
In a written statement to CBC News, Lori Ransom, reconciliation and Indigenous justice animator for the United Church of Canada, states ”Taking Care of Our Men in Port Alberni, B.C.” aims to build “strong male role models through social support, language, culture and oral traditions.”
‘Let’s Be Strong Together at the Orillia Biminaawzogin Regional Aboriginal Women’s Circle” is a community program that offers culture-based workshops for Indigenous women.
The Presbyterian Church in Canada offers a “Healing and Reconciliation program,” which, according to their website, “offers funding up to $5,000 for Presbyterians wishing to build relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. You may wish to invite an Indigenous Elder to speak with a small group or organize a trip to a local Native Friendship Centre.”
In written statement to CBC News, the Presbyterian Church stated that its Healing Fund supports different healing and cultural programs, but they all have one thing in common: “the initiative involved a group in the Presbyterian Church in Canada, bring together Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, and are committed to building new relationships based on mutual respect and love of neighbour.”
No examples of funded projects or programs were provided.
While some churches have periodic dialogues for Indigenous spiritual leaders, only the Anglican Church of Canada created ones directly in response to this Call to Action.
In 2017, the church participated in ”Sacred Encounter. A Symposium Towards Reconciliation” in dioceses across the country. These dialogues were a direct response to Call to Action #60.
The Anglican Church of Canada holds an event every ‘two or three years” called Sacred Circles. Their website describes them as “national gatherings of Indigenous Anglicans for prayer, worship, discernment and decision-making.”
Furthermore, on the church’s website, it states it has increased “the funding for existing Anglican institutions/programs offering training to indigenous peoples in the area of theological education, pastoral and therapeutic counselling, spiritual exploration.”
In January 2015, the Presbyterian Church in Canada issued a statement formally acknowledging Aboriginal spirituality, in response to concerns that emerged during the TRC hearings.
The statement, in part, reads “It is not for The Presbyterian Church in Canada to validate or invalidate Aboriginal spiritualities and practices. Our church, however, is deeply respectful of these traditions. We acknowledge them as important spiritual practices through which Aboriginal peoples experience the presence of the Creator God. In this spirit, The Presbyterian Church in Canada is committed to walking with Aboriginal people in seeking shared truth that will lead to restoring right relations.”
The statement also read that smudging, the medicine wheel, and drum songs are practices “received as gifts and serve to enrich our congregations.”
In July 2017, the United Church of Canada held an event for its Indigenous Ministry Circle in Pinawa, Man., where clergy and lay leaders talked about a lot of issues affecting Indigenous people, including spiritual practices.
But there have not been formal discussions with Indigenous leaders in response to this Call to Action, according to Lori Ransom, the church’s reconciliation and Indigenous justice animator.
The Catholic Church of Canada does not offer regional dialogues for Indigenous spiritual leaders and youth.