The United Church: Apologies offered in Fort Qu’Appelle SK
John Bird, Program Coordinator for Aboriginal Justice and Right Relations at the national United Church of Canada writes,
“Sue Bland is Saskatchewan Conference’s “part-time” staff person supporting the Conference’s Justice and Right Relations group, a wonderful gathering of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people from across the province who are committed to walking together in a good way, and to seeking to live as neighbours with, and advocate for justice with, Indigenous peoples in appropriate ways.
At the site below you will find a portion of the archived webcast from the May 15 Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings at Fort Qu’Appelle, SK.
At about 27 minutes and 25 seconds into the webcast, the MC calls Sue Bland up to speak. For United Church people, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, I think this is an important moment in the life of our church, as she shares some of her own experiences first, then calls other UCC people in the room to join her as she reads out the United Church’s 1998 apology to former students of United Church Indian Residential Schools, and to their families and communities. In all, Sue tells me, about 40 people came to the front to stand with her, most but not all of them United Church people.
It is a wonderful and moving moment, and another challenge to all of us to embrace and honour those words of apology that were originally spoken by our then-Moderator Bill Phipps.
I also want to emphasize that the testimony of all the many individual survivors of the residential schools, and their family members, is in many ways of course, even more important than Sue’s statement. The reality is, as she says, that she is restating the apology in the context of witnessing to those many courageous and life-giving testimonies.
So while I draw your attention to a particular and moving UCC response, I would urge you to also take the time at that website to watch as much of the survivors’ testimonies as you can. And revisit often to watch more.
Indigenous people have made incredible progress in their healing journeys, and that is worthy of honouring and celebrating. But those journeys can only be completed when we, the settlers, face our own need for healing, and make the decision to lay down our burdens of guilt and shame and to walk forward together in right relations and seeking justice with those brave souls who, miraculously, are ready to give us another chance.
There can be no reconciliation until the abuse stops. Let’s stop it together, as individuals and as a society.”