Faith groups push for approval of ‘critical step’ in reconciliation

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  • June 4, 2021

OTTAWA -- The Faith in the Declaration coalition is calling on the Senate to quickly approve a bill to give the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples legal standing within Canadian law “as a critical step” towards reconciliation with Canada’s First Nations.

The coalition said Catholic and other faith communities are committed to reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous people to atone for past actions.

“Long journeys of accompaniment and solidarity with Indigenous communities have taught us the gift of relationship, revealed the profound resilience of Indigenous peoples and cultures, and confronted us with the damages wrought by denial of Indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination,” said the coalition’s submission to the Senate.

“These relationships have compelled us to acknowledge and lament the destructive role faith communities played in support of colonial structures of oppression. In this journey we have come to know that decolonization and reconciliation require urgent action by all.”

Senior cabinet ministers appeared at a senate committee May 31 to make the case for Bill C-15, passed by the House of Commons on May 25.

Justice Minister David Lametti, who spoke just days after a mass grave of 215 children was discovered at a residential school site in B.C., told the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples that adopting the UNDRIP will be a step towards reconciliation as called for by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). The TRC wrapped up in 2015 and made adopting the principles of the declaration a key recommendation of its final report.

“This can help structure future collaborative discussions so that we can move forward with mutual respect,” said Lametti.

Catholic and other faith communities have been vocal in their support for enshrining UNDRIP within Canadian law.

“We urge the Senate to pass this legislation before the 2021 summer recess,” said a letter co-signed by Catholic religious orders and organizations including the Federation of Sisters of St. Joseph of Canada, numerous Jesuit organizations, Development and Peace-Caritas Canada and the Toronto Diocesan Council among others.

“We see Bill C-15 as a critical step toward reconciliation with Indigenous peoples,” the letter said. In the spirit of Call to Action #48, it continues, “our support for Bill C-15 is an expression of our commitment to reconciliation with humility”

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