levels,” says LeBlanc, noting that “
imposed values” happened in all sectors.
The Mi’kmaq/Acadian scholar, who lives
in Prince Edward Island, emphasizes recommendations in indigenous education
(e.g. #9), including provincial fair funding
plans for on-reserve schools. Funding
currently is far behind that of other schools.
As a Christian steeped in indigenous
culture, LeBlanc also wants churches to
respect indigenous spirituality (#48).
The 2007 United Nations Declaration on
the Rights of Indigenous Peoples includes
the right to religious freedom, “and freedom from proselytism that denigrates,”
That perspective “should fit with any
Evangelical’s understanding” of sharing
the Good News of Jesus, he says. Many
past problems have stemmed from the
belief that Christianity is culturally superior and that those who hear the message must heed it.
“I want to share that news with others,
Native and non-Native,” LeBlanc affirms,
“but I want to present it in a way they can
“The goal of every missionary was to
work themselves out of a job,” adds Bear.
“That’s never really happened.” She suggests non-Native ministry leaders set
five-year goals of turning over leadership
to indigenous Christians.
One of the resolutions (#60) calls upon
religious groups, especially those training
workers to minister in aboriginal communities, to respect the culture and be
mindful of past mistakes.
That is already happening, says LeBlanc,
in Canadian seminaries such as Tyndale,
Providence, Briercrest and Acadia.
In education and training, he notes,
“Christian institutions are doing as well
as, and in some cases far better than,
secular institutions.” But teaching in col-
leges and seminaries “needs to be more
Bear has been invited to church gather-
ings and colleges – Vineyard, Baptist and
Mennonite, for example – to teach on
aboriginal worldview issues.
The Christian Reformed Church already
has aboriginal ministry leaders, says Roorda.
Theologically, the denomination earlier
accepted the idea that “You don’t really
need to throw out native spirituality
practices in order to do ministry well.”
The denomination, through its Can-
adian Aboriginal Ministry Committee
and aboriginal ministry centres, has been
Debra Fieguth of Kingston, Ont., is a senior writer at
engaging churches “for quite some time,”
he says. The recommendations “create a
different impetus” for the denomination
to continue that task, through more
teaching at the congregational level and
through its close ties with many Christian
schools. Still, he says, “It feels like there’s
an awful lot of work to do.”
At Mennonite Church Canada, says
Metzger, “We’ve always had an active in-
digenous relations file and have been ac-
tive in wanting to educate our people and
recognize that we are all settler people.
We still have a lot of work to do on that.”
Some Mennonite congregations are
now studying indigenous worldviews as
part of their adult Sunday school curricu-
lum and, where they are near indigenous
communities, “seeing how they can very
concretely build relations” with them.
Head commissioner Justice Murray
Sinclair described the need for reconcili-
ation as “a Canadian problem.” To Metzger
that means all Canadians, whether they
directly contributed to the residential
schools saga or not, have the responsibil-
ity to make things right. “It will take a
concerted effort,” he adds. “It will be
easier to let it fade than keep it active.”
Those who attended hearings were
struck by the grace and forgiveness shown
by people testifying.
Some of that “grace and resilience”
comes from aboriginal culture, Bear ex-
plains. “We are a welcoming people.”
After ministering in 600 First Nations
across North America, Bear says for all
Canada’s faults on these issues, “When I
compare Canada to the U.S., we’re giant
The six stressful years, the lengthy report
and resulting recommendations should give
hope, especially for reconciliation among
the nation’s peoples. “I think story in itself is
what is going to change Canada,” says Bear.
“If Canadians don’t know the truth, then
how can they respond in any way?” /FT
THE TRC REPORT AIMS TO OPEN
“NE W HEALING PATHWAYS
OF RECONCILIATION ... FORGED
IN TRUTH AND JUSTICE.”
Darren Roorda, Canadian ministries director of
the Christian Reformed Church (second from left),
at the Walk for Reconciliation, May 31 in Ottawa.