MC Canada faces legacy of schools' abuse of aboriginal peopleBy Deborah Froese Mennonite Church Canada
CALGARY, Alta. — Delegates to Mennonite Church Canada’s annual assembly unanimously passed a resolution July 2 confronting the legacy of mistreatment of aboriginal people at residential schools in their nation.
Although MC Canada and its predecessor, the Conference of Mennonites in Canada, did not run residential schools, the delegates confessed the complicity of Mennonites “in the failing of the Christian church” more broadly as it partnered with the Canadian government to run the schools.
At these institutions, aboriginal people were abused and their culture suppressed.
“Destructive individual attitudes, such as paternalism, racism and superiority are still present among us,” the resolution states.
“We as Mennonite Church Canada congregations and as individuals will seek renewed opportunities to walk with aboriginal people of Canada … and strive to recognize each other as sisters and brothers created in the image and likeness of one God.”
Church leaders continue to investigate the extent to which Mennonite groups were involved in the schools, which operated from the 1870s until as recently as 1996. Over the years, members of some Mennonite congregations, whether as representatives of those congregations or as individuals, volunteered or supported these schools, said Neill and Edith von Gunten, who direct Mennonite Church Canada Native Ministry.
The Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, made among representatives of aboriginal organizations, church groups, survivors of abuse and the Canadian government, was implemented in 2007.
The agreement established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada in 2008. The TRC aims during a five-year period to form an accurate history of the schools and educate the public about them.
The TRC is hosting seven regional events to allow some of the about 80,000 survivors to tell their stories and to educate others. MC Canada had a substantial presence at the first national TRC event, held June 16-19 in Winnipeg, Man.
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