Editorial: Failure to connect

  • March 16, 2023

Rising from the dead, Our Lord was able to quickly arrange a meeting, and even a fish fry, with the Apostles.

The Holy Ghost, almost as impressively, was able to track down Saul at the house in Damascus and persuade him  to let the  scales fall from his eyes so he could see again and become Paul.

Granted, the UN’s special rapporteur for Indigenous rights, and the good folks at the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, lack the supernatural capacity of two-thirds of the Holy Trinity. Yet on the earthly plane alone, how relatively complicated could it be for two key participants in Canadian Indigenous affairs to block out calendar time and “dialogue” — that dreadful verbalized noun — about this crucial issue?

More complex, apparently, than either of them could manage. As our Ottawa correspondent Susan Korah reports, neither José Francisco Cali Tzay nor Fr. Jean Vézina, Secretary General of the CCCB, got the meeting invitations they expected from the other prior to the UN special rapporteur’s recent research visit to Canada. The New Yorker cartoon version would show them in split panels, each with silent cell phone in hand, staring into empty mailboxes with the caption: “He never calls; he never writes.”

In fairness to Fr. Vézina, his explanation is that the CCCB assumed, in the absence of a request to meet, that Tzay was just too busy researching True North compliance with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to have time for a chat. The thoughtfulness deserves high marks for courtesy, decency and regard for others. It is, alas, a little low on the chutzpah scale.

 If ever there were a time for the Church to square up its shoulders, push out its chest and step forward to claim credit due, it is now. Derided for years over its failures on Indian residential schools, afflicted for three years by vile anti-Catholic bigotry and actual physical violence, Canada’s Roman Catholic Church has emerged as a shining example of how penance and progress is properly done. Our Holy Mother Church is not only taking Indigenous reconciliation seriously. She is leading the way among Canadian institutions.

Framed with perhaps more Christian humility, but no less urgency, it’s a positive balancing story the Church must ensure forms part of the UN rapporteur’s assessment of Canadian regard for Indigenous rights. So, yes, the CCCB could have tugged a little harder on the garment’s hem to attract attention. Yet Tzay bears the most responsibility for failing to connect. 

As he has acknowledged, Premier Danielle Smith’s government gave him the brush off when he sought a meeting with Alberta officials. He clearly had time, then, for his chatbot to call the CCCB chatbot and arrange a Zoom call at least. We have the technology.

Instead, the UN special representative appears to have had other fish to fry. As we have warned, that does not bode well for his final report later this year. 

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