We call upon all religious denominations and faith groups who have not already done so to repudiate concepts used to justify European sovereignty over Indigenous lands and peoples, such as the Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius.

Indigenous Watchdog Status Update

Current StatusNov. 9, 2020IN PROGRESS
Previous StatusAug. 17, 2020IN PROGRESS

Why “In Progress”?

Multiple initiatives by all Settlement Agreement Parties.

Religious Denominations and Faith Groups Commitment to Repudiate Doctrine of Discovery and Terra Nullius

Catholic organizations

Mar. 19, 2016 – Issued a formal declaration to repudiate concepts of Doctrine of Discovery and Terra Nullius.

We believe that now is an appropriate time to issue a public statement in response to the errors and falsehoods perpetuated, often by Christians, during and following the so-called Age of Discovery. In light of all this, as Catholics:

  1. We firmly assert that Indigenous people, created in the image and likeness of God our Creator, ought to have had their fundamental human rights recognized and respected in the past, and that any failure to recognize and respect their humanity and fundamental human rights past or present is to be rejected and resisted in the strongest possible way;
  2. We firmly assert that there is no basis in the Church’s Scriptures, tradition, or theology, for the European seizure of land already inhabited by Indigenous Peoples;
  3. We reject the assertion that the principle of the first taker or discoverer, often described today by the terms Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius, could be applied to lands already inhabited by Indigenous Peoples;
  4. We reject the assertion that the mere absence of European agricultural practices, technologies, or other aspects common to European culture, could justify the claiming of land as if it had no owner;
  5. We reject the assertion that Europeans could determine whether land was used or occupied by Indigenous people without consulting those people.
  • Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB)
  • Canadian Religious Conference. (CRC)
  • Canadian Catholic Aboriginal Council
  • Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace
United Church of Canada

In 2012, the Executive of the General Council of The United Church of Canada passed a motion denouncing the Doctrine of Discovery, and initiated a process of discerning how its own values, actions, policies and structures continue to be informed by the Doctrine of Discovery. This resulted in a resource-development workshop in August 2015, and work is ongoing in drawing attention to the instruments and impacts of colonization, particularly in worship and youth programs.

A resource entitled “Acknowledging the Territory in Worship” invites congregations to acknowledge and learn the history of the territory where they gather (search “acknowledging the territory” at http://www.united-church.ca). The church encourages and promotes the development and use of ecumenical resources, as well as secular resources, that help to reveal how the Doctrine underlies systemic oppression of Indigenous Peoples.

Anglican Church of Canada

Mar. 19, 2016 – The General Synod 2010 repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery and endorsed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples… I commend resources produced by the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples and the Primate’s Commission on Discovery, Reconciliation and Justice that states:
UNDRIP must be approached and applied with a set of expectations that will inform strategy, process, and practice…There must be time for teaching and reflection that demonstrates those connections – guided by direct input from Indigenous People. …We will need to have a gradual acceptance and acknowledgement that Church institutions and members were involved in serious violations of UNDRIP and core Christian teaching over a number of centuries. The process of compliance to Call to Action #48 should be strategically planned to be progressive, on-going and reflective. Archbishop Fred Hiltz

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

Presbyterian Church in Canada

Dec. 16, 2019 – “Repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery” released with the following recommendations:

  • Recommendation No. XX
    • That The Presbyterian Church in Canada repudiate concepts used to justify European sovereignty over Indigenous lands and peoples, such as the Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius. This recommendation recognizes and affirms language in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as it relates to repudiating concepts used to justify European sovereignty over Indigenous lands and peoples. This language is particularly important because the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s has named the UN Declaration as the framework for reconciliation.
  • Recommendation No. XX
    • That The Presbyterian Church in Canada affirms that all doctrines, policies and practices based on or advocating for superiority of peoples or individuals on the basis of national origin, or racial, religious, ethnic or cultural differences are racist, scientifically false, legally invalid, morally condemnable and socially unjust.
  • Recommendation No. XX
    • That The Presbyterian Church in Canada seek to engage in relationships with Indigenous peoples that reflect the principles of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the basis for right relationship.
  • Recommendation No. XX
    • That Justice Ministries produce a resource that reflects on the history and ongoing legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius, including suggested actions that courts of the church may take to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius.
  • Recommendation No. XX
    • That members and courts of The Presbyterian Church in Canada study the Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius in order to understand the contemporary ramifications of concepts used to justify European sovereignty over Indigenous lands and peoples in Canada, including how this is reflected in The Presbyterian Church in Canada’s mission and ministry with Indigenous people.

https://presbyterian.ca/justice/doctrine-of-discovery/

Official Federal Government Response: Sept. 5, 2019

The Government of Canada is not the lead on a response for Call to Action 49.