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This Hits Home – Church Apologies, Reconciliation, and UNDRIP

Today's CTAs are particularly convicting for me, because I’m a practicing Christian. My faith teaches me to repent of the wrongs committed by our Christian faith community (even if I didn’t commit them myself), and actively repair harm and heal hurts, as part of repentance.

Apologies and Reconciliation

So let me start by saying, I’m sorry.

I’m sorry for everything that was done to First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, women, two-spirit, queer, men, Elders – all Indigenous peoples.

I’m sorry that people did these terrible things in the name of Catholic/Christian religion, and used religion as a weapon against Indigenous peoples.

I’m sorry that people from my religious community defended these actions and took no responsibility for what our faith leaders have done.

I’m sorry that even today, many Catholics/Christians look the other way, or excuse and justify what was done.

I’m sorry that such a simple request as CTA #58, “We call upon the Pope to issue an apology”, is still unmet.

I’m sorry that I remained ignorant for so long; that I have not fully read the CTAs until now; that I have not taken steps before last year to personally participate in reconciliation.

So I am going through today’s CTAs and committing personal action and response to each.


Education / Awareness / Definitions

First, you need to know what some terms in these CTAs mean.


The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (“UNDRIP”) was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2007. There were 4 votes against, from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States. (In my opinion, not a coincidence that the no votes came from the 4 richest countries with Indigenous populations that originated as British colonies.)

Canada did not remove its objection to UNDRIP until 2010, and even then, only endorsed it as an “aspirational” and non-binding declaration. Bill C-262 proposed by Cree federal MP Romeo Saganash to require Canadian laws to comply UNDRIP was defeated by the Senate in 2015.

Bill C-15, which has similar principles as the defeated Bill C-262, was just passed and made law on June 21, 2021, after the discovery of 215 dead children at the former Kamloops Residential School site.

Doctrine of Discovery and Terra Nullius

Per the Assembly of First Nations (quotes taken from this document):

"The Doctrine of Discovery emanates from a series of…formal statements from the Pope…

originating in the 1400s. Discovery was used as legal and moral justification for colonial dispossession of sovereign Indigenous Nations, including First Nations in what is now Canada. During the European 'Age of Discovery', Christian explorers 'claimed' lands for their monarchs who felt they could exploit the land, regardless of the original inhabitants."

Terra nullius is Latin for nobody’s land, and was used together with the Doctrine of Discovery to ignore any Indigenous people’s ownership of “land prior to European assertion of sovereignty”.


CTAs for Churches and parties of faith - Settlement Agreement and UNDRIP

Updates on the CTAs from this CBC website as of June 26:

#48 – In progress, projects underway. All the church parties to the Settlement Agreement have committed to implementing UNDRIP into their framework, are engaging in ongoing dialogue about it and have issued a statement outlining their commitment to it.

#49 – In progress, projects underway. Many religious denominations and faith groups in Canada have formally repudiated concepts such as the Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius.

My personal commitment to reconciliation:

  • 48. Read and reflect on the principles, norms and standards of UNDRIP.

  • 48. Add UNDRIP to my church's anti-racism online resources available to all members.

  • 48.i&ii. Advocate with my church Board and leadership to read the Declaration and develop a plan to ensure our policies, programs and practices comply with UNDRIP.

  • 48.iii. In my professional work as a Justice, Equity, Decolonization and Inclusion Coach, educate and facilitate discussion among businesses and corporations on UNDRIP and reconciliation.

  • 48.iv. Advocate with my church Board and leadership to, as part of developing a plan, write a statement on how we will implement UNDRIP within our church.

  • 49. Last year, my church began acknowledging the land, treaties and First Nations the land belongs to. I commit to educating church members on the Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius, and asking leadership to include repudiation of these claims in our UNDRIP statement.

CTAs for Churches and Parties of Faith - Church Apologies and Reconciliation

Updates on the CTAs from this CBC website as of June 26:

#58 – Not started. The Pope has not come to Canada and issued an apology to residential school survivors.

#59 – Complete. All of the churches involved in residential schools are members of KAIROS Canada - an organization that works for ecological justice and human rights. KAIROS Canada’s Blanket Exercise is a particularly important educational resource that many of the churches use to teach their congregations about the history of residential schools.

#60 – In progress, projects underway. Each of the church parties to the Settlement Agreement has implemented this Call to Action, albeit to varying degrees.

My personal commitment to reconciliation:

  • #58 - I will join in the call to the Pope to issue an apology to residential school survivors.

  • #59 - I have been involved in educating my church membership on the truth about residential schools; the role of churches, priests, nuns, etc.; and the ongoing intergenerational trauma, social impact and economic impacts that are legacies of residential schools. I commit to continued sharing of knowledge, resources and calls to action so our church can actively participate in nationwide reconciliation.

  • #60 - I will advocate with my local seminary to include and teach curriculum as described in this CTA, if they don't already.

Updates on the CTAs from this CBC website:

#61 – In progress, projects underway. All of the churches fund or have in the past funded healing, community-controlled culture and language and community-controlled education and relationship building projects, but to varying degrees.

My personal commitment to reconciliation:

  • I commit to learning what permanent funding my church and our wider governing body has established, if any, for the projects described in this CTA.

  • If no such funding exists, I commit to advocating with church leadership to find appropriate projects to support.


Share your stories and comments.

Whether you are of Christian faith or other - how can you personally act on at least one of the 94 calls to action? What actions will you commit to today?

Share or comment on Twitter or LinkedIn; join our Facebook group to start a discussion; or contact me to ask questions.


Links to resources and charitable organizations:

Indian Residential Schools 24/7 Crisis Line:


Indian Residential School Survivors Society:

Orange Shirt Day:

Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action:

Progress update on CTAs (by the CBC):

Nisitohtamowin Indigenous culture 1-hour e-learning (FREE until July 15, 2021):

Reconciliation Education and First Nations University of Canada Film Series and Online Course:

Memorial Register of Children Lost to Residential Schools:

"We Were Children", National Film Board documentary on Residential Schools, conveyed through the eyes of two children who survived. Available from Amazon Prime and NFB in French and English. May also be available through your local library.


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