As I prepare for Canada Day tomorrow, I (like many Canadians) am not in the mood for a jubilant celebration. Yes, there is much to celebrate about Canada, and yes, I am very proud to be Canadian for many reasons. But the sobering news about the unmarked graves recently found at Canada’s former residential schools forcefully brings us face-to-face with the deplorable conditions of those schools and the great injustice that was done through them to Indigenous people. This Canada Day will be a different kind of Canada Day for me; more a time for reflection than celebration.
As a nation, we cannot ignore this gut-wrenching confrontation with the appalling treatment that the children, their families, and their communities experienced at the hands of the Canadian government who created the policy of assimilation from which the schools resulted, and the religious institutions that ran the schools. We’re struggling to reconcile the Canada we’ve been aware of with the Canada that took children forcefully from their homes, stripping them of their cultural heritage, language, and identity. Faced with this incongruity, we know we must take responsibility to act to create a more just and equitable society for all who live within the borders of this land.
As a community, many Canadians are asking, “What is our specific role in contributing to building that more just and equitable society?” At CCCC, we’ve started our journey with our directors and staff by engaging in racial justice training.
As for next steps, we recognize that the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada has been working on the relationship between Evangelicals and Indigenous communities since 1994 and their work is very well done. They have made seven commitments and in the spring of 2021 they established a working group to implement them. I am glad they are addressing the topic and speaking for the Evangelical community as they lead us forward.
At the level of individual ministries, we all need to consider what we can do in our spheres of infuence. Our immediate next step at CCCC is to create a new room today in The Green (our online community) to share ideas between ministries about how to eliminate barriers that would prevent Indigenous people from using their services or otherwise engaging with them. I especially invite ministries already serving Indigenous people to share their stories and what they have learned.
Is there hope for true reconciliation in Canada? I believe there is.
I believe it is possible for all who live in the land now known as Canada to feel safe and valued in their communities. I am glad that there is still Indigenous participation in tomorrow’s Canada Day. While Canada Day this year is more for reflection than celebration, my hope is that in the future, we will celebrate Canada Day at a time when all are experiencing the equity and justice that only some enjoy today. As we remain mindful of the Holy Spirit’s guidance and seek to effect change in our own spheres of influence, I believe we will see healing in the broader community.
I and the ministry I lead, the Canadian Centre for Christian Charities, look to The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada for leadership of the evangelical Christian community on matters such as this. We wholeheartedly endorse their statement.
May God bless all who live in this land!