The apology came in 1993, some 12 years before the government’s apology and 16 years before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was launched. But repentance is not just about being sorry; it means doing things differently. For the Anglican Church of Canada, the call to repentance for our role in the Indian Residential Schools (IRS) has been a priority for decades and, as our National Archbishop and Primate, Fred Hiltz, recently explained while visiting Opaskwayak Cree Nation, “I can never tire of apologizing for the wrong done.”
Yet the recent article “Churches should heed the better angels” has implied that the Anglican Church, in addition to the Roman Catholic and United Churches, has forsaken its financial commitment to the work of the Settlement and Healing Funds, noting the recent refunds by the IRS Settlement Agreement to all three churches. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. The financial obligation for the Roman Catholics was initially divided into three amounts: immediate funds, services in-kind, and a fundraiser campaign with a maximum goal, to be raised over a period of seven years.
The Anglican Church gave 19.86% of this amount, proportionate to their role in the IRS, to the Settlement Fund to be held in trust until the end of a ten year period. Over this time, much of the money was transferred into the Anglican Fund for Healing and Reconciliation. A total of $15,687,188 was given by the Anglican Church, $2.8-million of which has now been returned to the dioceses (for fuller legal details, visit anglican.ca/news).
The largest return has gone to the Diocese of Toronto, which is being used to create an endowment for local indigenous initiatives. Rupert’s Land (this diocese) gave an original $323,433 for the work of the Healing Fund but voluntarily raised 50% more than its share of the Settlement Agreement to fund local projects. It has received a return of $57,571, which is going toward indigenous initiatives of the Diocese, including potential projects initiated by a new indigenous spiritual care position. Vincent Solomon, newly hired to serve indigenous Anglicans in Winnipeg and at the parish church of St. Philip, Brokenhead Ojibway Nation, originates from Norway House. He has walked a personal and familial journey toward healing from the legacy of the IRS.
In Winnipeg, the commitment to truth and reconciliation has echoed throughout each of our churches. Wechetowin, the project arm of the Anglican indigenous circle, has invited many of us to hear stories of betrayal, trauma, and loss of identity. As our elders offer us their traditional teachings, we are slowly learning what it means to be Christian people hosted in this land. At the hearings for individuals who attended Anglican schools, we are present to hold those stories and express deep sadness at the role our Church has played in the destruction of family and culture.
Together with our national elders’ circle, our national indigenous bishop, Mark MacDonald, works tirelessly to meet the significant needs stemming from the history of the IRS, including trauma, addiction, and brokenness. A self-determining, indigenous diocese, Mishamikoweesh, has been created in northern Ontario to better serve these relational and spiritual needs.
The editorial writers suggest that the churches are “walk(ing) away from this obligation.” Yet the legacy of the IRS and the hard work of reconciliation between settler and indigenous Anglicans in Canada is a journey that we will walk together for a long, long, time. It will make use of our financial resources, yes, but more than that: it requires that we change and grow together, reconsidering what it means to do “church” and “worship” and “ministry”. We are committed to walking beside our indigenous brothers and sisters to the very end of this journey, no matter what the cost. You will find us there together at the walk for missing and murdered indigenous women this Sunday. Yes, we will give our money. But reconciliation cannot be bought and sold. We must also give ourselves.