Parishes across the diocese are encouraged to continue working toward reconciliation with Indigenous communities by presenting the 2017 social justice vestry motion for consideration at their annual vestry meetings.
Titled “Continuing the Call to Reconciliation,” the motion once again advocates for the Government of Canada to follow through on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, issued in June 2015.
The vestry motion focuses specifically on Call to Action #48, which calls for the adoption and implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), an international agreement that establishes a framework of rights for Indigenous communities around the world. In particular, the motion emphasizes the need for clear policies that recognize the need for free, prior and informed consent from Indigenous communities regarding the management and development of their lands and resources.
“Indigenous communities around the world have long experienced dispossession of their lands, forced relocation to allow for infrastructure development and environmentally destructive resource extraction, without sufficient negotiation,” states the motion.
Ongoing opposition to projects, such as the reversal of the Line 9 pipeline in Ontario by the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation or the resistance to development of the Dakota Access Pipeline by the Standing Rock Sioux Nation in the United States, are the result of the continued practice of imposing decisions on Indigenous communities without the level of consent required by the UNDRIP. The federal government’s recent approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion from Alberta to Vancouver has already met with protests from Indigenous communities that will be affected by the project along with non-Indigenous communities opposed to the development, demonstrating the significant need for a policy of free, prior, and informed consent in Canada.
In addition to being asked to pass the vestry motion, parishes will be asked to continue to undertake ongoing education and advocacy work to develop a deeper engagement with the long-term project of reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada. Over the past year, parishes have carried out a variety of programs, from hosting a KAIROS Blanket Exercise to learn about the history of Indigenous peoples and colonialism in Canada, to initiating a study series on the Calls to Action or the UNDRIP. Other congregations have also invited Indigenous speakers and collaborated on public witness events such as vigils and marches with ecumenical and interfaith partners.
Training and formation sessions on the topic of the vestry motion will be held for each episcopal area in January of 2017 to allow interested parishioners and clergy to learn more about the motion in preparation for presentations and discussions at their vestry meetings. Materials, information on training sessions, and additional resources for the vestry motion can be found on the diocesan website, www.toronto.anglican.ca.