Indigenous Peoples in this Diocese
Collectively, First Nations, Inuit and Métis people in Canada are referred to as Indigenous Peoples. Close to 300,000 Indigenous people live in Ontario, including about 70,000 in the city of Toronto. The diocesan boundaries also include several First Nations communities, including the Chippewas of Rama and Georgina Island, Mississaugas of Scugog Island, Hiawatha, Alderville, and Curve Lake First Nations.
The Diocese supports ministry by, to and for Indigenous peoples in Toronto through Toronto Urban Native Ministry, a FaithWorks ministry partner.
The Rev. Leigh Kern, who works with Toronto Urban Native Ministry, is the Right Relations Coordinator for our Diocese.
Orange Shirt Day
For many Indigenous families, September can be a painful time, recalling memories of family separation, abduction and legally enforced attendance at Indian Residential School or Indian Day School. Since the 1600s, millions of Indigenous children were forced to attend Indian Residential School, Day School and other shadow Church-run institutions, including Indian Hospitals and group homes. The outcomes of these institutions were devastating, and many children did not survive. As we know well, this history is not of the distant past – seven of the last Indian Residential Schools closed down between 1995-1998.
In 2013, Phyllis Webstad, Northern Secwpemc (Shuswap) grandmother, community leader and Residential School Survivor, started the Orange Shirt Day movement to honour Survivors and their stories. To raise awareness and in honour of Phyllis, Survivors, intergenerational Survivors and those who died and did not return home, we wear orange on Sept. 30. For more about Phyllis Webstad’s story and to listen to her recordings, visit: www.orangeshirtday.org.
Prayer on Orange Shirt Day
For a solemn observation of Orange Shirt Day and the ongoing impacts of intergenerational trauma in the wake of the devastating loss of life at James Smith Cree Nation, you may join us by praying: “Prayer for those who did not return home from Residential School and for all missing and murdered Indigenous people.” English, Mandarin, Japanese, Cantonese and Tamil translations of this prayer can be found here. These translations were generously created by the Bishop’s Collaborative for Right Relations Translation for Decolonization working group.
Buying an orange shirt
If you’d like to purchase an orange shirt in honour of Orange Shirt Day, you can shop from an Indigenous owned and operated business, such as Native Arts Society. This gallery and studio is run by inter-generational Survivors of Residential School. In addition to hand-printing t-shirts and running educational events on the impacts of colonization, they offer free studio space and art supplies to Indigenous artists, especially those who are houseless or incarcerated.
Consider taking up a special collection on a Sunday close to Orange Shirt Day and donate it to an Indigenous organization such as Native Arts Society, Toronto Urban Native Ministry or the Woodland Cultural Centre.
It has become increasingly common for gatherings in Canada to begin with acknowledgments of the Indigenous history of the land on which the meeting is taking place.
In the Church, this practice helps us acknowledge that we’re located in a particular place with a particular history and reminds us of our obligations toward both the land and to those who have inhabited it long before the arrival of Christian missionaries. It’s also our way of expressing a willingness to move toward reconciliation and a renewed, respectful relationship with Indigenous peoples.
Including territorial acknowledgments in worship services was one of four means of reconciliation recommended in 2016 by the Primate’s Commission on Discovery, Reconciliation and Justice, tasked with addressing reconciliation and injustices against Indigenous people in Canada.
Truth and Reconciliation
The Anglican Church was one of several denominations in Canada that operated residential schools for Indigenous children, first privately and later on behalf of the Government of Canada. Following Confederation in 1867 and the Indian Act of 1876, the federal government adopted aggressive policies on the regulation, education and ultimate assimilation of Indigenous peoples. Church-run residential schools became vehicles for these policies, which the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada later described as “cultural genocide.” In addition to the rupture of family and community ties and the loss of their language and culture, many students suffered physical, psychological and sexual abuse. At various times between 1820 and 1969, the Anglican Church of Canada administered three dozen residential schools and hostels.
For many years, Indigenous communities in Canada have engaged the government and the churches in a process geared toward truth and reconciliation. In 1993, Primate Michael Peers issued an apology to Indigenous peoples for the Anglican Church of Canada’s role in the residential school system. The Anglican Church was among the signatories to the Indian Residential Schools Settlement in 2006 and participated in the public hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) across the country between 2008 and 2015.
The final report of the TRC included 94 Calls to Action aimed at addressing the ongoing marginalization of Indigenous peoples in various aspects of Canadian life and society, several of which are explicitly directed toward Canadian churches. In particular, Call to Action #59 states:
“We call upon church parties to the Settlement Agreement to develop ongoing education strategies to ensure that their respective congregations learn about their church’s role in colonization, the history and legacy of residential schools, and why apologies to former residential school students, their families, and communities were necessary.”
The Anglican Church of Canada has compiled excellent resources for churches interested in learning more about the relationship between our Church and Indigenous peoples, including a Reconciliation Toolkit to help Anglicans along the ongoing journey of truth and reconciliation.
In the light of centuries of colonization and attempted assimilation, reconciliation is not something that can happen overnight. Yet it is something that, as a Church, we are called to do. As Christians, we know that apologies must be accompanied by action so that right relationship can be restored.