We call upon the church parties to the Settlement Agreement, and all other faith groups and interfaith social justice groups in Canada who have not already done so, to formally adopt and comply with the principles, norms, and standards of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a framework for reconciliation. This would include, but not be limited to, the following commitments:

  1. Ensuring that their institutions, policies, programs, and practices comply with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP)
  2. Respecting Indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination in spiritual matters, including the right to practice, develop, and teach their own spiritual and religious traditions, customs, and ceremonies, consistent with Article 12:1 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
  3. Engaging in ongoing public dialogue and actions to support the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
  4. Issuing a statement no later than March 31, 2016, from all religious denominations and faith groups, as to how they will implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Indigenous Watchdog Status Update

Current StatusOct. 4, 2021IN PROGRESS
Previous StatusSept. 5, 2021IN PROGRESS

Why “In Progress?”

The Church Parties to the Settlement Agreement – The Anglican Church of Canada, The Presbyterian Church in Canada, the Roman Catholic Entities Parties to the Settlement Agreement, The United Church of Canada and the Jesuits of English Canada – “acknowledge and welcome the specific calls to action that offer direction to the churches in our continuing commitment to reconciliation” (An Ecumenical Statement):

  • In particular, we are committed to respect Indigenous spiritual traditions in their own right (ii. above).
  • As individual churches and in shared interfaith and ecumenical initiatives – for example through Kairos, through interfaith groups, and through the Canadian Council of Churches – we will continue to foster learning about and awareness of (i and iii. above):
    • the reality and legacy of the residential schools,
    • the negative impact of such past teachings as the Doctrine of Discovery, and
    • the new ways forward found in places, such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. (i. above)
  • We will continue our commitment to financial support for community-controlled initiatives in healing, language and cultural revitalization, education and relationship-building, and self-determination (1 and iv above).
  • All the Church Parties to the Settlement Agreement issued a statement on implementation plans for UNDRIP by March 31, 2016 (iv above).
Church Parties Commitment to UNDRIP: March 31, 2016

An Ecumenical Statement on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) released 94 Calls to Action in June 2015 “to redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation.” The Calls to Action provide multiple opportunities to address and overcome more than a century of systemic discrimination and abuse in the residential school system, and to create a transformed relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.

The Government of Canada acted on behalf of all Canadians when it created the residential schools system. Some churches and religious communities ran the federally-funded schools as part of a national policy of assimilation spanning 160 years. The TRC has described the outcome of this policy as cultural genocide.

The church parties to the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement received and promised to work with these Calls to Action. Other churches, faith communities, and ecumenical organizations have signalled their intent as well. In addition to the many statements released by churches and other faith groups in response to Call to Action #48, we the undersigned, jointly commit to Call to Action #48, to implement the principles, norms, and standards of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the framework for reconciliation.

The UN Declaration is an international human rights instrument adopted by the UN General Assembly on September 13, 2007. It affirms the inherent or pre-existing collective and individual human rights of Indigenous peoples. It does not create new rights. It provides a framework for justice and reconciliation, applying existing human rights standards to the specific historical, cultural and social circumstances of Indigenous peoples. The rights affirmed in the UN Declaration constitute the minimum standards for the survival, dignity, security, and well-being of Indigenous peoples worldwide.

In an executive summary of its final report, the TRC emphasized that “Canadians must do more than just talk about reconciliation; we must learn how to practise reconciliation in our everyday lives—within ourselves and our families, and in our communities, governments, places of worship, schools, and workplaces.”

Settlers in Canada have benefited, directly or indirectly, from the occupation and usurpation of Indigenous lands and resources. Indigenous peoples, however, have experienced impoverishment, oppression, dispossession from their lands, and the destruction of their cultures and spiritual practices. The root causes of this ongoing impoverishment and oppression of Indigenous peoples must be identified and, then, we must be willing to make it right.

The UN Declaration, with its emphasis on self-determination and consent, freedom from discrimination, and rights to spirituality, culture, lands, and resources, helps us to address the root causes of this inequity, and provides the means for us to correct it.

An Ecumenical Statement on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Call to Action #48 necessitates a fundamental reordering of our relationship, and a significant change in our identity as a country. It requires us to truly respect Indigenous peoples’ right of self-determination and to acknowledge and respect nation-to-nation relationships based on mutuality and respect.

Implementing the UN Declaration includes examining the Doctrine of Discovery, which some faith bodies have repudiated. We acknowledge that this doctrine has had and continues to have devastating consequences for Indigenous peoples worldwide. All doctrines of superiority are illegal in international and domestic law, and immoral, and we affirm that they can never justify the exploitation and subjugation of Indigenous peoples and the violation of their human rights.

As churches and religious organizations, we have acknowledged our failures to respect the rights and dignity of Indigenous peoples. We acknowledge the harm done and are committed to journeying together towards healing and reconciliation. Many of us are on different places in that journey: some have been engaged in these questions for decades; for others, it is new terrain. But we are all committed to responding to this call.

We are strengthened in this journey by Indigenous peoples, both inside our faith communities and more broadly across Canada, who have chosen to journey with us. In these relationships, respect and understanding are strengthened, and we see the possibility for transformation.

We undertake this work in our communities of worship and beyond through educational initiatives. We support growing social, political, and legal efforts that promote the UN Declaration. As well, we welcome working alongside governments in Canada as they live into their stated commitments to the implementation of the UN Declaration.

Today we embrace the opportunity that Call to Action #48 offers faith communities to work for reconciliation and to fully respect the human rights and dignity of Indigenous peoples in Canada.

Signed by:

  • Anglican Church of Canada
  • Christian Reformed Church
  • Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada
  • The Presbyterian Church in Canada
  • Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
  • The Salvation Army
  • The United Church of Canada
A Catholic Response to Call to Action 48 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (On Adopting and Implementing UNDRIP)

Catholic Bishops, institutes of consecrated life, societies of apostolic life and other Catholic organizations in Canada support this Declaration and believe that its spirit can point a way forward to reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada, including:

  • Respecting Indigenous Spiritual Practices
  • Publicly supporting The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
  • Understanding and respecting their cultural traditions, religious consciousness and their long-standing ability to decide and control their development programs

The Catholic response also frames their response in the context that the Catholic Church is not a national church and “each diocese, institute of consecrated life and society of apostolic life has its own proper autonomy”, …the undersigned reiterate the teaching of the Catholic Church on the universality of human rights, particularly the right to freedom of religion and belief.

The Catholic response also highlights eight commitments in “Walking Forward Together” while expressing a caveat that the As representatives of the Catholic faithful in Canada, and counting on the full collaboration of the Canadian Catholic Aboriginal Council, we appeal to all our Catholic brothers and sisters — laity, members of institutes of consecrated life and of societies of apostolic life, deacons, priests, and Bishops — to make their own the following commitments, as recommended by the Commission for Justice and Peace of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, in the hope and desire to continue to walk together with Indigenous Peoples in building a more just society where their gifts and those of all people are nurtured and honoured.

Signatories:

  • President, Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops
  • Chairman, CCCB Commission for Justice and Peace
  • Chair, Canadian Catholic Aboriginal Council
  • President, Canadian Religious Conference
  • President, Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace
  • Executive Director, Canadian Religious Conference
  • Executive Director, Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace

http://www.cccb.ca/site/images/stories/pdf/catholic response call to action 48.pdf

Settlement Agreement Parties Commitment to UNDRIP

Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), Canadian Religious Conference (CRC), Canadian Catholic Aboriginal Council Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace

March 19, 2016 – Recommendations by the Commission for Justice and Peace of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops “Walking Forward Together”

  1. Continue to work with Catholic educational institutions and programs of formation in learning to tell the history of Canada in a way that is truthful, ensuring proper treatment of the history and experience of Indigenous Peoples, including the experience of oppression and marginalization which resulted from the Indian Act, the Residential School system, and frequent ignoring or undermining of signed treaties.
  2. Work with centres of pastoral and clergy formation to promote a culture of encounter by including the study of the history of Canadian missions, with both their weaknesses and strengths, which encompasses the history of the Indian Residential Schools. In doing this, it will be important to be attentive to Indigenous versions of Canadian history, and for these centres to welcome and engage Indigenous teachers in the education of clergy and pastoral workers, assuring that each student has the opportunity to encounter Indigenous cultures as part of their formation.
  3. Call upon theological centres to promote and continue to support Indigenous reflection within the Catholic community, and include this as part of the national ecumenical and interreligious dialogues in which the CCCB is involved.
  4. Encourage partnerships between Indigenous groups and existing health care facilities to provide holistic health care, especially in areas where there are significant health needs.
  5. Encourage initiatives that would establish and strengthen a restorative justice model within the criminal justice system. Incarceration rates among Indigenous people are many times higher than among the general population, and prisons are not sufficiently places of reconciliation and rehabilitation. Such initiatives include the renewal of the criminal justice system through sentencing and healing circles and other traditional Indigenous ways of dealing with offenders where appropriate and desired by Indigenous Peoples.
  6. Support the current national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and work with others towards a healthier society where just relations flourish in families and communities, and where those most vulnerable are protected and valued.
  7. Support Bishops and their dioceses and eparchies, as well as superiors of institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life, together with lay Catholic organizations, in deepening and broadening their relationships, dialogue and collaboration with Indigenous Peoples; in developing programs of education on Indigenous experience and culture; and in their efforts to continue to move forward with renewed hope following the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report and its Calls to Action, especially those that address faith communities.
  8. Encourage Bishops, as well as the superiors of institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life , together with lay Catholic organizations, to invite a greater acquaintance with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in their dioceses and eparchies, in their parishes and educational institutions, and in their communities and pastoral work, thus fostering continuing reflection in local contexts on how various aspects of the Declaration can be implemented or supported.

Link to A Catholic Response to TRC Call to Action 48 (On Adopting and Implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples) (PDF)

United Church of Canada

March 31, 2016 – The United Church, as an active member of KAIROS, has been an advocate for the adoption and implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples for many years.  A UN Declaration Task Group was formed in December 2015 to 1) develop the statement issued on March 31, 2016, and a format for ongoing reporting; and 2) develop and implement a process to engage the whole church in complying with this Call to Action, providing a mechanism with which to assess compliance in all our policies, programs, and practices. The task group has begun introductory sessions with the national governing bodies, and is looking forward to providing resources to Conferences, presbyteries, and communities of faith so they may begin to examine their way of doing things according to the norms, principles, and standards of the Declaration.

The church has been increasingly moving toward Indigenous self-determination in its structures and policies. On March 30, 2016, the United Church joined the broader ecumenical community in announcing a collective intention to implement the principles, norms, and standards of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the framework for reconciliation (see http://www.united-church.ca/news/release-ecumenical-statement-un-declaration).

On March 31, 2016, the United Church issued its own statement expressing its commitment to honouring this Call to Action (www.united-church.ca/news/united-church-responds-call-action- un-declaration). This statement was offered as the Aboriginal Ministries Council in the United Church, accompanied by the non-Indigenous (settler) church, began a process of consultation to determine its own vision and future structure. The Caretakers of Our Indigenous Circle, a group of 13 Indigenous leaders, will make recommendations to the 43rd General Council in 2018.

Part of ecumenical community announcement to implement the principles, norms, and standards of UNDRIP as the framework for reconciliation.

Anglican Church of Canada

Part of ecumenical community announcement to implement the principles, norms, and standards of UNDRIP as the framework for reconciliation.

http://www.anglican.ca/news/let-yes-yes/30015309/

Presbyterian Church in Canada

March 29, 2016 – Will begin a process to assess how the church’s structures – institutions, policies, Programs and practices can comply with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This will involve consultation with National committees in the church including The National Native Ministries Council. TRC Call to Action 48 Statement.pdf  Download

March 30, 2016 – Part of ecumenical community announcement to implement the principles, norms, and standards of UNDRIP as the framework for reconciliation.

http://www.kairoscanada.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Ecumenical-Statement-EN.pdf

Other Church Group Commitments to UNDRIP
Other ChurchesDeclaration
Christian Reformed Church  March 30, 2016 – Joined the broader ecumenical community in announcing a collective intention to implement the principles, norms, and standards of UNDRIP as the framework for reconciliation
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in CanadaMarch 30, 2016 – Joined the broader ecumenical community in announcing a collective intention to implement the principles, norms, and standards of UNDRIP as the framework for reconciliation
Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)March 3, 2016Canadian Yearly Meeting (the national body) of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) has endorsed, celebrated and committed to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (PDF) including Duty to Consult. Commit to a progress report in one years time March 30, 2016 – Joined the broader ecumenical community in announcing a collective intention to implement the principles, norms, and standards of UNDRIP as the framework for reconciliation
Salvation ArmyMarch 30, 2016 – Joined the broader ecumenical community in announcing a collective intention to implement the principles, norms, and standards of UNDRIP as the framework for reconciliation
Saint Vincent de Paul Society Knights of Columbus Catholic Women’s League of CanadaDec. 19, 2016 – Our Lady of Guadalupe Circle (including 4 Catholic Church signatories to Settlement Agreement) has a fourfold purpose: 1. To provide a forum for its members to dialogue and encourage deeper under-standing of the relationships between the Church and Indigenous people and Indigenous spirituality in Canada. 2. To serve as a united Catholic public voice on relations and dialogue between the Church and Indigenous people and Indigenous spirituality in Canada. 3. To assist Catholics in engagement with the TRC process and its Calls to Action. 4. To carry out agreed upon initiatives and concrete actions.
Kairos Canada1996 – The KAIROS Blanket Exercise (KBE) was developed in response to the 1996 Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples which recommended education about Canadian-Indigenous history as one of the steps to Reconciliation. The KBE covers more than 500 years in a 90-minute experiential workshop that fosters understanding about our shared history as Indigenous and non-Indigenous.
Dec. 15, 2015 – KAIROS has chosen to respond to the challenges of Calls to Action 48 and 62. Within and beyond the KAIROS church community, a plan is emerging for a collaborative act of public witness related to 48 and its request for a statement of compliance with the UN Declaration. Through Education for Reconciliation, our response to 62, we hope to build a broad, diverse movement of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people willing and able to advocate for curriculum reform in public schools.
June 23, 2020 – KAIROS Canada and the Legacy of Hope Foundation (LHF) launch Ravens: Messengers of Change, an educational resource for people of all ages that creates awareness and action for Reconciliation in Canada by calling on everyone to become, like Ravens, the messengers of change. Ravens: Messengers of Change was born out of a need to help participants of the KAIROS Blanket Exercise take their newfound understanding a step further through concrete actions on their journey as informed allies. The resource features an activity called ‘Building a Tree of Reconciliation which draws on the First Nations Holistic Lifelong Learning Model developed by First Nations members in partnership with the Canadian Council of Learning (2007).
Other Faith-based Organization responses as compiled by Kairos
Official Federal Government Response: Sept. 5, 2019

The Government of Canada is not the lead on a response for Call to Action 48.