We call upon leaders of the church parties to the Settlement Agreement and all other faiths, in collaboration with Indigenous spiritual leaders, Survivors, schools of theology, seminaries, and other religious training centres, to develop and teach curriculum for all student clergy, and all clergy and staff who work in Aboriginal communities, on the need to respect Indigenous spirituality in its own right, the history and legacy of residential schools and the roles of the church parties in that system, the history and legacy of religious conflict in Aboriginal families and communities, and the responsibility that churches have to mitigate such conflicts and prevent spiritual violence. 

Indigenous Watchdog Status Update

Current StatusAug. 17, 2020IN PROGRESS
Previous StatusJune 15, 2020IN PROGRESS

Why “In Progress”?

Parties to the Settlement Agreement have all agreed to respect and honour Indigenous spirituality and various commitments to the church’s role in the history and legacy of residential schools and mitigating the spiritual violence within Indigenous communities. Schools of Theology and Seminaries are making progress.

Commitment of Religious Organizations Towards Aboriginal Spirituality

Church Parties to the Settlement Agreement are:

  • 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

June 2, 2015 – “Response of the Churches to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission”:

We acknowledge and welcome the specific calls to action that offer direction to the churches in our continuing commitment to reconciliation. In particular, we are committed to respect Indigenous spiritual traditions in their own right. 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 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. 

Catholic Organizations

The Catholic Response to Call to Action 48 of the TRC (On Adopting and Implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples) recognizes the following:

In 2012, the Permanent Council of the CCCB issued a Pastoral Letter on Freedom of Conscience and Religion, declaring that:

Every individual has the ‘the right to be able to worship God in accordance with the right dictates of his conscience.’ [Saint John XXIII, Pacem in Terris 14]. Other people, as well as civil society, have the corresponding duty to respect the free spiritual development of each person. Besides being free from external coercion, everyone must be able freely to exercise the right to choose, profess, disseminate, and practice his or her own religion in private and in public. This includes the freedom for parents to educate their children in their religious convictions and to choose the schools which provide that formation. Moreover, the state has the obligation to protect this right by means of a legal and administrative framework and to create a suitable environment where it can be enjoyed. The Catholic Church does not claim these rights for Christians only, but for all people – including those choosing to follow Indigenous forms of spirituality and religious belief. To do otherwise would run contrary to the Church’s mission.

“Walking Forward Together” also recognizes the following recommendations from the Commission for Justice and Peace of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops:

  • 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 and;
  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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.
United Church of Canada

In February 2015 the United Church released a statement that acknowledges its complicity in the denigration of Aboriginal wisdom and spirituality: Affirming Other Spiritual Paths (see http://www.united-church.ca/social-action/justice-initiatives/apologies). The document contained a number of statements made by the United Church over the past several decades affirming the inherent validity of diverse spiritual traditions. The resource Circle and Cross: Dialogue Planning Tool was published in 2008 as “an invitation to a conversation about spirituality and justice in the relationships among Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.” In 2015, the United Church, through the Ecumenical Working Group on Residential Schools, contributed to the creation of a theological reflection paper identifying questions and learnings arising from our role in the residential school system in order to foster discussion and discernment in theological colleges and learning centres.

The Sandy-Saulteaux Spiritual Centre and the Vancouver School of Theology’s Native Ministries Consortium program prepares clergy for ministry in Aboriginal communities. Other theological institutions have incorporated Indigenous history and teachings within their curriculum. The Theological Education Circle (principals, deans, and keepers) has this Call to Action on their agenda. The United Church has identified the need to educate student clergy, clergy already in paid accountable ministry, and clergy from other denominations and countries being admitted to ordered ministry, as well as all clergy and staff working in Aboriginal communities, particularly non-Aboriginal clergy. This will require the work of the whole church as well as the theological education centres.

Anglican Church of Canada

Indigenous Ministries supports the Indigenous Peoples of Canada (First Nations, Inuit, and Métis) spiritually, socially, economically and politically. We recognize that the purity of the land base provides for all our needs. As active participants in the life of the church, we strive for reconciliation with the Anglican Communion and work towards Indigenous self-determination.

Presbyterian Church of Canada (PCC)

PCC Statement on Aboriginal Spiritual practices: “First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, before any encounter with Christianity, found meaning, spiritual benefit and the presence of the creator through life-giving indigenous spiritual practices that have deeply rooted traditions…It is not for The Presbyterian Church in Canada to validate or invalidate Aboriginal spiritualties 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.”

Official Federal Government Response: Sept. 5, 2019

The Government of Canada is not the lead on a response for Call to Action 60.