A dialogue guide for Reconciliation with Indigenous peoples: from Indignation to Action

On May 15th and 22nd, I joined 15 people on a consultative committee on reconciliation with the First nations organized by the Jesuit Forum for Social Faith and Justice. Indigenous people, non-indigenous people, francophones, and anglophones were part of the discussions; among them were Marie Wilson, one of the Commissioners for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, long-time collaborators with the Province and representatives of the Centre Justice et Foi. The committee's mandate is to contribute to a dialogue guide that will be published by the Jesuit Forum with Novalis and KAIROS, Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives.

Consultation Committee - Jesuit Forum

Dialogue and reconciliation

This initiative is a follow-up to the official apology provided by the Jesuits of Canada to the First Nations in the context of our participation in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and to the Canadian Canoe Pilgrimage. This dialogue guide is aimed at facilitating discussions and dialogue between Indigenous and non-Indigenous persons based on mutual respect and knowledge.

It aims at building bridges of trust in order to promote the construction of an inclusive Canadian society while recognizing the delicate issues, such as the destructive effects of colonialism in Canada and in the Catholic church. The dialogue guide will be used in conjunction with the blanket exercise of KAIROS.

Indignation would be deadly if it didn't translate into concerted action which can bring change, be they small actions. This is why this project is a source of enthusiasm for me. There was a real communion of minds during these first two meetings of the committee.

Like many Québécois, Canadians and Catholics, I was profoundly shocked by the testimonies heard during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. As a historian, I had already been exposed to the horrors of colonialism and the violence against Indigenous peoples of the Americas, but I used to consider them as connected with a distant past. I refused to see and to admit that the consequences of colonialism and racism are profoundly anchored in the psyche of too many of my fellow citizens and also in the real injustices that affect the First Nations of Canada - injustices treated with complete indifference.

My awareness - radical and unsparing - was also of the active role played by Catholic religious orders in this cultural genocide. I was expecting a strong answer from the Canadian Catholic Church and authentically bold steps towards reconciliation with the Indigenous, Metis and Inuit communities. But I was profoundly outraged by the silence of the Pope and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. I was equally outraged by the refusal of many of my fellow citizens to admit their part of responsibility in this collective crime, secularists who prefer to blame the Church, and nationalists who blame the federal government of John A. McDonald. Hard work will be needed to heal this selective memory and this refusal to face this tragedy collectively, in the Church as well as in the whole society.

Indignation would be deadly if it didn't translate into action and concertation, which can bring change, be it small actions. This is why this project is a source of enthousiasm for me. There was a real communion of minds during these first two meetings of the committee. We all agreed that it's urgent to address collectively the sequels of colonialism even though this can bring fear and discomfort in our communities of faith and for our fellow citizens. The educational approach of this guide will address these fears and concerns. First, it will favour encounters between Indigenous and non-Indigenous and it will help establish a climate of confidence and mutual respect through a dialogue in small groups. Finally, it will be used in conjunction with the Blanket exercise of KAIROS, which helps participants relive and feel - into their flesh - the violence of the process of colonial dispossession.

Frédéric BarriaultFrédéric Barriault
Centre justice et foi







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