The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) may have wound down at its closing ceremony on June 3, but its momentum continues in the Anglican Church of Canada’s #22days website campaign, a nationwide initiative of remembering and commitment.
This online project has also set church bells ringing across Canada-in tiny chapels and large cathedrals alike-in honour of the many hundreds of Aboriginal girls and women murdered or gone missing since 1980.
Launched officially on May 31, the project’s website by June 10 had racked up more than 22,000 hits. “At times, the website has been busier overall than our main website, which is really exciting,” says Brian Bukowski, the church’s web manager. “It’s been very positive. People are signing up to get the daily emails.”
Conceived by cathedral deans in dioceses where the TRC held its seven national events from 2010 to 2014, #22days is a continuum of telling and listening that takes Anglicans from the May 31 start of the TRC’s closing event in Ottawa to National Aboriginal Day on June 21. It’s also an opportunity for Canadians to commit and recommit to the healing and reconciliation process.
Its website keeps alive one of the commission’s core purposes: telling the poignant stories of residential school survivors and their families, still rebounding from the traumatic abuse and intergenerational fallout of that regrettable chapter in Canadian history. The #22days site features powerful footage from the archives of Anglican Video documenting survivors’ experiences in their own words.
And the project keeps alive the TRC’s call to action to promote healing among Aboriginal Canadians and reconciliation between them and their non-Aboriginal counterparts.
Resounding chords have been struck across the country. “We had an email from the rector of a small parish in Cape Breton, [N.S.] where most of the parishioners are probably not even on the Internet, but they heard about the project and made a commitment to read and consider the results from the TRC,” Bukowski says.
The campaign’s enlistment of church bells as a reminder of the disappearances of Aboriginal women is resonating, literally, everywhere. “The bells are ringing across Canada, and not just in big cathedrals in large cities with substantial Aboriginal populations,” says Bukowski.
Adds Lisa Barry, Anglican Video senior producer, “We’ve had a lot of secular press coverage of the bell ringing and the #22days online project. I feel the TRC has triggered in this country a renewed interest-and for some, a brand-new interest-in residential schools and their legacy. I think the project is timely.”
Barry believes that down the line the Anglican church could be helpful in getting material on the residential schools into the curriculum of public schools. They are, after all, part of every Canadian’s national history. “We are complicit in the legacy of the schools, the dysfunctional families, the high suicide rates,” she says.
Another witness to the outpouring from all parts of the country is the Rev. Jesse Dymond, the church’s online community and resources co-ordinator. “Anglicans have responded to the #22days campaign with passion, using social media not only to share personal and parish commitments to reconciliation, but to draw others into the discussion,” he says “In the past 10 days, I’ve seen Anglicans ringing bells, encouraging one another, sharing ideas around worship and advocacy and making a public cry for justice.
He adds that this appeal has been heard by the CBC, CTV Huffington Post, local news outlets and even the satirical online media. “There has been so much social media activity that, at times, it’s been hard to keep up,” Dymond says. “And that’s wonderful: the church is proclaiming the gospel as it calls itself and our country to reconciliation.”