Archbishop Richard Smith (right) has offered prayers and encouragement from the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Chief Shawn Atleo as they prepare to meet Jan. 11 Register file photo

CCCB offers blessings to PM, First Nations meeting

  • January 10, 2013

OTTAWA - The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops wants something substantial to come out of the Jan. 11 meeting between the government and indigenous leaders.

"Many promises have been made over the past generations, and the outstanding issues which are key to future progress have already been identifyied by the Royal Commission as well as by indigenous, federal and other agencies. What is needed now is for these many undertakings to be sustained by fresh thinking and a new cultural synthesis so as to overcome purely technical approaches and to harmonize the various political currents with a few to the common good," wrote CCCB president Archbishop Richard Smith in a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Shawn A-in-chut Atleo.

The Jan. 9 letter was released publicly on Jan. 10, just a day before the meeting.

Smith's letter makes no reference to Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence's month-long hunger strike, though it does mention "daily sporadic demonstrations taking place across our country."

Spence has announced she will not participate in the meeting because Governor General David Johnston as representative of the crown will not be present. She is urging other aboriginal leaders to boycott the meeting.

Education, health care, housing, safe drinking water and land settlements are among the issues Smith identifies as important. But he calls them "symptomatic of deeper economic, political and social questions among all indigenous people."

Smith makes liberal use of Pope Benedict XVI's Jan. 1 Message for World Day of Peace in arguing for a "right to an integral social and communitarian development."

The residential school issue comes up as Smith reminds Harper of his 2008 apology to native Canadians for the government-sponsored, Church-run schools.

Smith also invokes the recently canonized St. Kateri Tekakwitha, the Protectress of Canada, "who lived at a time of tension and misunderstanding." The archbishop prays that St. Kateri may "help inspire and encourage respect, dialogue and patience in your Jan. 11 meeting, so it may bear fruit in real hope for the future."

The full text of Smith's letter is at


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