Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, announced the creation of the commission in his presidential address at General Synod 2013 in Ottawa. Photo: Art Babych
This spring the 17 members of the Primate’s Commission will start considering how to translate General Synod’s 2010 repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery into tangible action. The commission also has mandates to address the practicalities of reconciliation and the persistent injustices in Canada’s indigenous communities.
Its first meeting will likely be in Toronto, possibly in time to report to Council of General Synod in May. “The commission will make recommendations to General Synod in 2016 perhaps in the form of resolutions,” said Ginny Doctor, co-ordinator of indigenous ministries and staff support for the commission. Doctor said the commissioners seem eager and optimistic. “We didn’t have anyone say no. That means there’s a spirit.”
The first item on the commission’s three-pronged agenda is the Doctrine of Discovery. In the history of European ideology few principles can match it for blatant cultural imperialism. Developed by states and churches (Anglican included) in the late 15th century during the age of colonization, the doctrine granted the first European power to “discover” an indigenous territory the right to own, rule and exploit it in the name of crowns and Christianity. It designated such a territory Terra Nullius (“Nobody’s Land”).
Partly in response to the United Nations’ 2007 Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Anglican Church of Canada formally denounced the doctrine at its 2010 General Synod. In his presidential address to the 2013 synod last July the primate reiterated the church’s commitment to follow through on the repudiation with action and address other aspects of reconciliation.
The 17 lay and clerical commissioners are largely indigenous. By region, they include:
Arctic: Jonas Allooloo, dean of St. Jude’s Cathedral in Iqualuit; Verna Firth, past co-chair of the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP)
British Columbia: Stuart Smith, former chancellor for the diocese of Caribou; Lily Bell, priest in Masset
Alberta: Sidney Black, archdeacon and co-chair of ACIP
Saskatchewan: Sol Sanderson, Cree First Nations activist
Manitoba: Stanley McKay, former moderator of the United Church of Canada
Northern Ontario: Lydia Mamakwa, bishop of northern Ontario region, diocese of Keewatin; Amos Winter, priest and member of the ACIP Governance Working Group
Southern Ontario: Terry Finlay, retired archbishop in the diocese of Toronto; Andrew Wesley, priest and former co-chair of ACIP; Laverne Jacobs, canon and former co-ordinator of the Council for Native Ministries, Anglican Church of Canada; Riscylla Shaw, priest in the diocese of Toronto; Ellie Johnson, former director of General Synod’s partnership’s department; John Bird, special assistant to the primate on residential schools; Jennifer Henry, executive director of Kairos
New Brunswick: Graydon Nicholas (honorary member), lieutenant governor of New Brunswick
A youth representative from the National Indigenous Bishop’s Youth Council will be selected later.
More biographical information about the commission members is available here.
Terms of reference are available here.
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Diana Swift is an award-winning writer and editor with 30 years’ experience in newspaper and magazine editing and production. In January 2011, she joined the Anglican Journal as a contributing editor.
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