The Canadian bishops’ conference has officially registered its Indigenous Reconciliation Fund that is hoped will push forward the path to reconciliation. Photo by Michael Swan

Indigenous fund helps push healing forward

  • February 2, 2022

A new, independent registered charity created to disburse $30 million Canadian Catholics will raise over the next five years is a chance to forge new relationships between the Church and Indigenous Canadians, according to Odawa/Ojibway elder Rosella Kinoshameg.

Kinoshameg, from Ontario’s Wikwemikong Unceded First Nation, will be one of three Indigenous directors of the Indigenous Reconciliation Fund, set up by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops to receive contributions from 73 dioceses across Canada.

“There’s always hope for that (new relationships),” Kinoshameg told The Catholic Register. “If I didn’t believe in that I wouldn’t have accepted this.”

She hopes the process of getting money in the hands of Indigenous communities will prioritize the communities’ own healing processes.

“Hopefully it will help them with whatever healing ventures they are going to be undertaking,” she said.

The Archdiocese of Toronto will raise 20 per cent of the $30-million national commitment with a $6-million contribution over five years to the new charity. Unlike the failed “best efforts” campaign to raise $25 million between 2008 and 2014, the fundraising commitment is ironclad this time around.

“This is not a best-efforts campaign,” said Toronto chancellor of temporal affairs Jim Milway. “The archdiocese will ensure we meet our fundraising commitment.”

Though the commitment is national, fundraising will be local, said CCCB spokesperson Jonathan Lesarge.

“The commitment will be achieved at the local level, with parishes and dioceses each participating in their own way,” Lesarge said.

Dioceses are being asked to contribute to the fund in amounts that “are proportional to the size of their congregations, as well as their individual circumstances,” Lesarge said.

In New Brunswick’s Saint John diocese, the fundraising began Jan. 30 with a special collection that Bishop Christian Riesbeck has said will be an annual event.

Toronto is planning a collection on the Sunday nearest to the Sept. 30 National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, also known as Orange Shirt Day.

“We will be able to share more information on how we will engage parishioners on this financial effort once we get closer to the special collection date at the end of September,” said archdiocese spokesperson Mark Brosens. “We will continue to raise awareness on Indigenous healing and reconciliation with a variety of updates, tools and channels to invite the faithful to participate in spiritual, educational and financial initiatives.”

Joining Kinoshameg will be Erminskin Cree Chief Wilton Littlechild, who served as one of the three commissioners leading the Truth and Reconciliation Commission between 2010 and 2015, and Giselle Marion, a lawyer with the Tłı cho government in the Northwest Territories.

Kinoshameg has spent 50 years working in health care as a registered nurse on Manitoulin Island. She’s a member of the Our Lady of Gaudalupe Circle, which brings together bishops and Indigenous leaders for Catholic conversation about Indigenous issues.

The board will be supported by three corporation members: Natale Gallo, a former Supreme Director of the Knights of Columbus; Claude Bédard, national president of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Canada; and Barbara Dowding, former national president of the Catholic Women’s League.

The new charity will publish annual reports and be subject to an annual audit. Administrative costs will not be taken out of the $30 million committed to Indigenous-led programs. The CCCB is recommending to dioceses that granting committees be chaired by local Indigenous people.

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