Following the historic papal visit, Canadian bishops hope to collaborate with the federal government’s National Council for Reconciliation to respond to Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. Photo by Michael Swam

Canada’s bishops eager to engage Reconciliation Council

  • September 10, 2022

Canada’s bishops want to engage with a new National Council for Reconciliation that Ottawa lawmakers plan to set up this fall.

“We would welcome the opportunity to meet with this newly created council,” said Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops spokesperson Jonathan Lasarge.

Bill C-29, which would create the National Council for Reconciliation, has passed first reading. Crown Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller expects it will sail through the Commons and Senate before Christmas. The new law would fulfill the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action #53.

In 2015, the TRC wanted the commission to “Monitor, evaluate, and report annually to Parliament and the people of Canada on the Government of Canada’s post-apology progress on reconciliation to ensure that government accountability for reconciling the relationship between Aboriginal peoples and the Crown is maintained in the coming years.”

Chief TRC commissioner Murray Sinclair complained in 2020 that without the commission there’s no way of knowing whether Canada is going forward or backwards on incarceration rates for Indigenous people, the number of Indigenous children placed outside their families and communities in foster care, resolution of land disputes with various levels of government, funding for Indigenous education among other things.

While the TRC envisioned the council as a body to monitor government action through annual reports, the Catholic bishops want to be part of the process, said Lesarge.

“We hope that our initial collaboration with the federal government on planning the papal visit will lay the foundation for a co-operative relationship that responds to the calls we have heard from Indigenous Peoples of the land, including the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action,” Lesarge wrote in an email.

According to Lesarge, the current CCCB to-do list includes greater transparency on residential school records, a process to address the status of Indigenous artifacts held in the Vatican Museums, collaborating with the Holy See on a statement about what is referred to as the “Doctrine of Discovery,” taking up positions to address systemic injustices identified by First Nations, Métis and Inuit and financial support for healing and reconciliation initiatives.

The bishops “will be reviewing an updated action plan during our national plenary assembly this fall,” Lesarge said.

Miller claims legislation to create the commission was delayed by COVID. Since 2019 an advisory board has been laying the groundwork for the commission. Bill C-29 was tabled in Parliament in June, just before the summer break.

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