THE UNITED CHURCH OF CANADA
December 11, 2013
LETTER SENT TO
Minister Bernard Valcourt
Minister, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada
10 Wellington Street
Gatineau, QCK 1A0H4
Dear Minister Valcourt:
The United Church of Canada joins with the First nations Education Steering Committee and Aboriginal
organizations across Canada in calling for the government to reconsider the First Nations Education Act.
For the first 60 years of its existence, from 1925-86, The United Church of Canada conflated Christianity
and European civilization. Based on the worldview of the Doctrine of Discovery, we operated in tandem
with the Canadian government and other elements of colonialism to assimilate the Indigenous peoples
into our political, cultural and economic systems, thus aiming to free their lands for settlers.
Gradually, however, our direct relationship with the Indigenous Peoples with whom we worked and
worshipped converted us towards a truer understanding of the gospel. A major turning point came in
1986, when our church’s General Council apologized to the First Nations Peoples for imposing our
culture and spirituality. “We tried to make you be like us,” we said in that apology, “and in so doing we
helped to destroy the vision that made you what you were. As a result, you, and we, are poorer and the
image of the Creator in us is twisted, blurred, and we are not what we are meant by God to be.”
Thus we began a journey towards a new way of living together, based on healing, justice and right
relations. That journey has included a second apology in 1998, specifically to the former students of
United Church-run residential schools, and their families and communities for “the pain and suffering that
our church’s involvement in the Indian Residential School system has caused.”
The Canadian government has also moved towards more rightful relations by co-signing the Indian
Residential Schools Settlement Agreement and by making its own heartfelt apology for the Residential
Schools in 2008, when Prime Minister Stephen Harper said: “Today, we recognize that this policy of
assimilation was wrong, has caused great harm, and has no place in our country.”
As well, we are participating together, and with our Aboriginal sisters and brothers in the vitally
important Truth and Reconciliation Commission process.
We recognize that this journey towards reconciliation, justice and right relations is a long and challenging
one, and we do not claim to have made as much progress on it as we would have liked. Yet one thing we
are learning is the importance of listening to Aboriginal people and supporting them in identifying what
they, themselves, know they need. It’s an about-face from the way we used to think.
The Mission and Service of The United Church of Canada: God’s mission, our gift.
3250 Bloor Street West, Suite 300
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