Actions and Commitments

Call to Action # 61: Church Apologies and Reconciliation (58-61)

Archdiocese of Edmonton donates $3.2M to Indigenous reconciliation efforts

June 7, 2023
The Archdiocese of Edmonton is donating $3.2 million toward Indigenous healing programs as part of its ongoing effort for reconciliation. Mason DePatie reports.

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NationTalk: GlobalNews – The Archdiocese of Edmonton announced Wednesday it will be donating $3.2 million to the national Indigenous Reconciliation Fund to support healing and recognition of Indigenous peoples.

The Catholic Bishops of Canada committed to raising $30 million over five years across local dioceses. The funds raised in Edmonton will support local programs and initiatives that focus on five pillars, which include:

  • reconciliation
  • youth leadership
  • culture and language revitalization
  • education and community building and
  • promoting Indigenous spirituality and culture.

Project applications will be reviewed and selected by an Indigenous Reconciliation Discernment Circle, an Indigenous-led group represented by members from First Nations, Metis and Inuit partners. “History cannot be erased, but together we can look forward to — and help create — a better future,” said Chief Cam Alexis, chair of the Circle and former chief of the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation.

“I think the spirituality and culture is very important because that is part of the Church’s reconciliation as well. It is to recognize that as a holistic way of healing. Even the Pope visited us last summer and all of this is the concept of healing and coming back to the Church as well for prayer.”

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The fundraising comes in the wake of an apology from the Pope who visited Alberta last year, even making the annual pilgrimage to Lac Ste. Anne – a traditional healing experience for the Indigenous community.

Alexis’ grandmother was a student at a residential school in St. Albert for 10 years, and he lived with the ripple effects of the residential school experience. He said the financial contribution from the church is not what’s important to the Indigenous people, rather it’s the recognition of wrongs and how they can move forward and heal amongst themselves.

“Healing is not just a one-way street. It takes all of us … it takes the Catholic faith, it takes the Indigenous spirituality and cultures, it also takes the Canadian mosaic,” he said.

The church’s fundraising allows everyone to come together and move forward with healing together, he said. “(It’s) crucial,” Alexis said of the contribution as a person whose family has been impacted by the trauma of the Church. “It’s to acknowledge the wrongs that have happened and how do we right the wrongs. Of course, we’ll never right the wrongs of the past, but we have to start working collectively for a better future tomorrow.”

Not everyone agrees with the Circle’s choice of allocating the money toward an application-based program. “Why are we reinventing the wheel when we know what’s wrong?” posed Desmond Bull. “We know what we need, we know what necessities we need, and this is a good pot of money that can create, honestly, I believe, a healing facility in each treaty territory within the province.”

He suggested looking at how proper reconciliation can be offered instead of just giving money to the problem. “Provide a solution that has long-term impact but also addresses the issues that we know things were done wrong within partnership with the church, and we want to offer healing by creating programs and facilities that address these issues themselves,” he said.

Bull was also a product of intergenerational trauma – his mother attended a residential school — and he also went to day school. “From kindergarten to grade three, I lived that trauma, the physical abuse, the mental abuse,” said Bull, who added he lost his language and had to reintegrate himself and gain back his identity. This, he said, is what it’s all about.

“Our people want to know that identity, of who they are, where they come from, their ancestors … but it’s hard to do that when that connection was lost through residential schools, Sixties Scoop, Indian Act and colonialism.

“It’s good to see some initiative moving forward, but I think a better long-term plan and coordinated action that would be more viable … like a treatment program, a treatment facility, to address these issues. That will go so much further than an application-based formula, which only has short-term impact.”

Still, he said, the gesture is important because it’s the church taking ownership of what happened in the past. And really, the healing comes down to the individual.

By Meaghan Archer  Global News

— With files from Mason DePatie, Global News