An Indigenous woman reacts as Pope Francis meets with First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities at Maskwacis, Alberta, July 25, 2022. CNS photo/Paul Haring

Toronto Archdiocese to fund eight reconciliation projects

  • December 15, 2023

The Archdiocese of Toronto is allotting more than $2.7 million to fund eight projects to support the ongoing journey of healing and reconciliation with Canada’s First Nation, Inuit and Métis people.

Fittingly, the announcement came on Dec. 12, the National Day of Prayer in Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples. 

This $2.7 million represents 45 per cent of the archdiocese’s $6-million commitment, which it made in February 2022, towards the Indigenous Reconciliation Fund (IRF) established by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) in September 2021. 

Archbishop Francis Leo said the archdiocese is answering Pope Francis' call to action during his 2022 reconciliatory sojourn to Canada.

 “In his historic visit to Canada last year, Pope Francis challenged us to consider how we could add our voices to join in the life-changing efforts of healing and reconciliation. Thank you to all those who have walked with us and continue to do so.”

John Ecker, the Archdiocese’s director of special projects and the Family of Faith campaign, said the selection committee identified potential fundable projects via recommendations from the IRF, community organizations connecting with the Archdiocese or committee members tapping into their networks.

Ecker told The Catholic Register the committee sought to approve projects directly assisting individuals on the ground floor.

“The Archdiocese is very much committed to healing and reconciliation at the people level,” said Ecker. “We looked at projects that would be most beneficial to Indigenous people. For instance, our project in the north with the Embrace Life Council. It is so important across the whole territory to provide support for people and families who have been exposed to suicide. As we know, suicide is very high in many communities. In Nunavut, a lot of the connection to suicide is related to the legacy of the residential school system, either directly or intergenerationally.”

Wigwamen Terrace, a non-profit providing residence for 125 Indigenous seniors or older adults, will receive $475,000 over five years. 

“This multi-year funding will permit us to significantly expand services,” said Brenda Aviles, the assistant general manager of Wigwamen Terrace, envisioning it will provide residents with better access to health services and resources to maintain a connection to their cultural heritage.

Aboriginal Legal Services in Toronto is receiving the largest distribution at $538,000. The money will help finance the organization’s GiiwedinAnang Council Indigenous family dispute resolution program, while the Embrace Life Council in Iqaluit will receive $250,000 over five years to fund grief care packages to assist those mourning a loved one lost to suicide.

Indigenous youth are the beneficiaries of the $450,000 earmarked for Teach for Canada – Gakinaamaage over the next three years. This money will invest in local educators teaching in First Nations schools in remote communities, which is projected to help 4,300 students annually. Ken Sanderson, the executive director of Teach for Canada – Gakinaamaage, said the funds will be utilized “in a way that promotes reconciliation, understanding and unity.”

Over the next four years, the Indigenous Spirit Fund, a branch of Native Child and Family Services of Toronto, is getting $400,000 to bolster the On the Land culture camp program curriculum. Earlier this year, this initiative received a $100,000 donation from ShareLife. Thus, the fund is receiving $500,000 in archdiocesan support. 

Ontario Native Women’s Association in Thunder Bay gets $475,000 over the next five years to enrich its programming, which includes healing and reconciliation activities, language revitalization, education, community building and spiritual and cultural teaching from elders and knowledge keepers.

The archdiocese’s Native People’s Mission is receiving $150,000 over five years to widen its programming and outreach scope, and the Keeseekoose First Nation already received $30,000 in support of the “Truth Telling Gathering” the community hosted earlier this year. The Archdiocese of Regina also backed this event. 

Ecker said he hopes the news of these projects being funded will inspire other local, provincial, even out-of-province Indigenous groups, to explore funding possibilities with the archdiocese. 

“It is really important that we reach out to good groups doing good things that may be eligible for our funding,” said Ecker. “(We want to) connect with them, listen to their concerns, their needs and what they feel the solutions may be. And then to work closely with those groups to try and respond with support that is consistent with the goals with the fund.”

Please support The Catholic Register

Unlike many media companies, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our website. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith-based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.