The Current

Majority of indigenous Canadians remain Christians despite residential schools

For centuries, the relationship between the Christian church and indigenous Canadians has been fraught. Even after the residential schools era, a majority of aboriginal people still identify as Christian, fusing religion with their own beliefs and traditions.
Two-thirds of aboriginal Canadians remain with the Christian church despite the fraught history. (Waiting For The Word/Flickr)

One of the 94 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission into residential schools included the church's reconciliation with Canada's First Nations people. The church recently offered a commitment to reconciliation, one day shy of the March 31 deadline.

The National Indigenous Bishop for the Anglican Church of Canada, Mark MacDonald, delivered his church's so-called "commitment to reconcile" with Canada's First Nations people, March 30, 2016, confirming that the church will never partner with cultural genocide, affirming the UN declaration on rights of indigenous people.  MacDonald highlighted the new relationship moving forward stating "the churches have said that they will be partners to us in life in a way that before they were partners with what brought so much pain and misery."

The church's commitment is an important one for many First Nations people. Not just because of the role Canadian churches played in the residential school system but because today, two-thirds of aboriginal Canadians identify as Christians.

We don't have a church building. Our faith is built into our culture and our belief that God is with us is built into our traditions.- Jillian Harris, Indigenous Christian studying to become a priest

The Current wanted to explore the future of this relationship and where churches need to go from here to deliver on their promise to reconcile.

  • Mark MacDonald, Canada's first National Indigenous Anglican Bishop.
  • Cecile Smith, residential school survivor from the Fishing Lake First Nation.
  • Jillian Harris, residential school survivor, and currently a master's student at the Vancouver School of Theology Native Ministries Program.   

This segment was produced by The Current's Karin Marley.