As the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission ended its six years of work and presented its final report and recommendations, representatives of the Christian Reformed Church were also in Ottawa, Ont., to participate and present a statement on behalf of the church.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission traveled across Canada listening to stories of survivors of residential schools. For more than 100 years, aboriginal children across Canada were removed from their homes and put into church-run residential schools, where stories of neglect and abuse were rampant. The commission called the attempt to assimilate indigenous children into western culture “cultural genocide.” This week in Ottawa, the head of the commission delivered its final report along with 94 recommendations.
At one of the many events surrounding the close of the commission’s work was a presentation by Darren Roorda, the CRC’s Canadian ministries director, Shannon Perez, justice mobilizer for the CRC in Canada, and Kathy Vandergrift, chair of the Board of Trustees. They presented a statement and gifts on behalf of the CRC to commissioners and school survivors.
“The Christian Reformed Churches in Canada have heard and seen the sacred Spirit of Reconciliation in the proceedings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). In the stories, the tears, and the resilience of survivors we have learned that all people in Canada ‘drink downstream’ from the hurt of residential schools and the wider sins of colonialism,” the statement said. “We have been honoured to witness the expressions of truth in the TRC, and in them have seen a sacred momentum of reconciliation and hope. Because of this hope, and with the help of our Indigenous neighbours and Creator God, we are committed to turning from the systemic evils behind colonialism and living into a sacred call of unity and reconciliation.”
The statement noted that the CRC is currently studying the Doctrine of Discovery, “a process that is causing our denomination to wrestle with our history of ministries among Indigenous peoples in Canada and the South West U.S.” The statement also committed the church to partner with indigenous organizations and educators “to bear witness to the need for reconciliation in Indigenous education, and to call for Canada-wide curriculum that addresses the full reality of our common history.” The church’s Christian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue has been part of indigenous education initiatives.
Vandergrift, Roorda, and Perez presented gifts, including a copy of the painting “Creating a New Family” by Ovide Bighetty.
Even though the Christian Reformed Church did not run residential schools, its members participated in the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in several locations during the commission’s tour, including Alberta, Nova Scotia, and British Columbia.