In August 2021, PWRDF launched a new program to support Indigenous-led organizations working to improve community health, take climate action, empower youth and ensure safe water. The Indigenous Responsive Programs began receiving funds that would be given to organizations in the form of grants. PWRDF is happy to report that to date, more than $75,000 has been donated. Of that, $12,500 – roughly 16 per cent – has come from individuals or parishes in the Diocese of Toronto.
Three grants have been allocated to Indigenous-led organizations in Eastern Ontario, downtown Winnipeg and Oka, Quebec. The Responsive Programs grant was created with the involvement of PWRDF’s Indigenous Partners Advisory Committee. The goal is to broaden our reconciliation efforts by partnering with more Indigenous organizations and provide funds in a way that provides more agency and autonomy to Indigenous groups.
Three grants have been awarded so far, and applications are being accepted on an ongoing basis. A $10,000 grant was awarded to Métis Nation of Ontario (Highland Waters Métis Council) to reconnect Indigenous food and farming practices to Indigenous culture and knowledge. A $10,000 grant was awarded to 1JustCity in Winnipeg to fund an elder-in-residence and a harm reduction worker in three downtown neighbourhoods. And a grant of $15,000 was awarded to the Kanien’keha:ka Onkwawen:na Raotitiohkwa Language and Cultural Center (KORLCC) in Kahnawà:ke, Quebec, to support Mohawk language and cultural preservation, with particular emphasis on teaching children of all ages about health and the environment.
There is growing energy around truth and reconciliation programming in the diocese. PWRDF’s Mapping the Ground We Stand On exercise is a case in point. In June 2019, Cheryl Marek was trained as a Mapping Exercise facilitator for the Diocese of Toronto. The workshop involves a massive floor map of Turtle Island. Participants are invited to “walk onto the map” to place name cards of Indigenous Peoples and to reflect the history of colonization and immigration. She presented two workshops in early 2020, and then the pandemic hit. With the workshop being so hands-on, facilitators and PWRDF staff were reticent to move to Zoom.
Then the pandemic stayed, and the need for deeper connections to our Indigenous brothers and sisters grew more urgent with the discovery of unmarked graves at residential schools. In May 2021, PWRDF redeveloped the workshop for Zoom. Since then, Ms. Marek, along with the Rev. Canon Greg Smith (Diocese of Huron), has presented 15 workshops in the Ecclesiastical Province of Ontario, 13 of them online through church groups.
Ms. Marek attributes the growing demand for the workshop to a groundswell of understanding. “I think it was no longer possible to ignore words like ‘genocide’ and I think perhaps more Anglicans were thinking about truth and reconciliation as their problem. They’re asking how could Canada do this, and they’re looking for ways to deal with their hurt. The Mapping Exercise gives a forum for those feelings to be explored with other like-minded people.”