Magazine article Anglican Journal

Church Prepares for Truth Commission

Magazine article Anglican Journal

Church Prepares for Truth Commission

Article excerpt

An ecumenical "leaders' tour" is being planned this spring in five Canadian cities to generate support and awareness for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which the federal government is forming as part of the revised Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.

Anglican, Roman Catholic, United, and Presbyterian leader will team with aboriginal leaders at gatherings in Vancouver, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Toronto and possibly Calgary that will begin a dialogue about "what the (commission) is and why we need it," said Ellie Johnson, the Anglican church's representative on the schools settlement portfolio.

Ms. Johnson told members of the Council of General Synod (COGS) at their fall meeting that the ecumenical tour is intended to help generate interest about the commission among congregations and the Canadian public. "How do we get Canada interested in this?" asked Ms. Johnson. "It's supposed to set the historical record straight in our country as well as set up an appropriate place for people to tell their stories. We know the broad outlines (about the legacy of the residential schools) and I feel we have a responsibility that other people know about it. It's our common heritage."

Meanwhile, in Ottawa, at a forum, the question of whether non-aboriginals can handle the truth about the abuses that happened in Canada's Indian residential schools was raised by Robert Watts, the interim director of the commission.

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One of the factors affecting healing and reconciliation between former residential school students and the rest of the country will be the "receptivity of the country to the truth," said Mr. Watts, the former chief of staff to Phil Fontaine, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations. "We can have all the truth in the world, but if people aren't listening ... in terms of building for the future, we will miss an opportunity."

He was speaking at a Nov. 19 event that included Bishop Mark MacDonald, the Anglican Church of Canada's first national indigenous bishop. The event, titled, "Confronting our Aboriginal History: Towards Healing and Reconciliation," was held at the Church of St. John the Evangelist, and was organized by the parish's Primate's World Relief and Development Fund committee.

Mr. Watts and his staff are seeking members to serve on the commission, which is to be an independent body appointed by a government order-in-council. A selection panel is sifting through more than 300 applications from across Canada, and was expected to come up with a short list for the position of chairperson and two commission members by early 2008. …

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