‘Optimism, hope and joy’ in reconciliation between Church and First Nation peoples

Photo by Heather Davidson
Photo by Heather Davidson

Though the last residential school in Canada closed nearly 20 years ago, there is still work actively being done in order to mend the relationship between the nation and Aboriginal peoples.

On Wednesday morning Lori Ransom, a senior advisor for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, spoke at Waterloo Lutheran Seminary and discussed what must be done in order to work towards reconciliation between faith groups and Canada’s First Nation peoples.

Ransom is a member of both the Presbyterian Church in Canada and the Algonquins of Pikwàkanagàn First Nation.

“I’ve been involved in Aboriginal affairs for 25 plus years now and I find I have to have kind of an impatient patience. Impatient in the sense that lives are at stake,” she said. “The impatience is that we really need to address this for the sake of people. The patience is that there’s so much to do and so much complexity.”

The talk focused on what faith groups − especially those of Christian religions − must do to reconnect to Aboriginal people who suffered from abuse at residential schools.

Ransom said there is “optimism, hope and dare I say joy” in the advancements the TRC has done.

“I think it’s in our nature to work for something better. I think people of faith are constantly asking themselves ‘what are we here to do? What is life all about?’” she said.

During her talk, Ransom moved from the survivors of residential schools and abuse, to what the faith community and specifically TRC has done recently in their five-year mandate to mend the relationship before finally focusing on the challenges that lie ahead.

Ransom stressed that although Christian churches and communities are taking responsibility for the treatment of Aboriginals, government-run organizations are also starting to become accountable for the actions of the nation.

“This is a Canadian story,” Ransom told the group of listeners.

4,500 survivors have come forward with the Church to share their story, and about 2,000 more survivors have shared their stories in private.

TRC has also reached out to schools and have children making birthday cards for the adult survivors who weren’t able to celebrate their birthdays while in the residential schools.

In addition, they are opening up the National Research Centre at the University of Manitoba where all records from their research on Aboriginals will be held and available to the public.

But Ransom knows there’s a long way to go toward her goal of making Canada a place of true diversity.

“It is a journey, and it’s one that gets deeper and deeper and deeper,” she said. “You come to a place where all is good, but then there’s more to it than you realize and do more reflection.”

She compared the connection between the survivors and the people of faith to any relationship, saying once you get closer, stuff comes out “that wouldn’t come out when you just say hello.”

However, Ransom does commend the work that has been done by people of faith and non-faith alike in terms of looking at the issues.

“Movement is incremental, but there is movement,” she said. “It becomes complicated, but I sense a huge desire through the church communities to start.”

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