On Nov. 15, Archbishop Terence Finlay and the Rev. Andrew Wesley updated the Council of General Synod (CoGS) on the work of the Primate’s Commission on the Doctrine of Discovery, Reconciliation and Healing.
The commission, created on the recommendation of the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP), is looking for ways to put General Synod’s 2010 repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery into meaningful action, to move forward with the work of reconciliation and to address ongoing injustices faced by indigenous communities in Canada.
The 17-member commission held its second meeting at St. Peter’s Church on the Six Nations Reserve in southwestern Ontario from Nov. 6 to 8, welcoming Janaki Bandara from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada to the commission.
Finlay and Wesley reported that the commission began to develop a theological reflection on the Doctrine of Discovery, its continuing impact and ways that it might be dismantled. Secondly, members discussed “what reconciliation looks like in parishes and communities, particularly around the understanding of healing and wholeness and the Circle of Life,” which Wesley explained is a part of the teachings of the medicine wheel. Thirdly, they explored how the quality of life in indigenous communities could be improved by understanding the nature of treaties and the Indian Act, an act that he said “crippled the aboriginal people” after it was passed in 1951 and became law.
The commission discussed the importance of grassroots contributions. Responding to questions and comments from CoGS members, Finlay said he is “continually amazed” by how much the Doctrine of Discovery is a part of the non-indigenous way of life. “If you can identify ways in which you see that, please write them down and let us have them because those are signposts for us,” he told them.
Finlay said that the group recognizes that they will be able to offer only an interim report to General Synod 2016 because of “the immense breadth” of the three subjects they are studying.
At the end of the presentation, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, said he rejoiced that ACIP gave the church this direction, since the term of Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) will end in June 2015. “I think that we can say, not in a boastful kind of way…but in a good way, that our church has a plan in terms of its commitment beyond supporting the mandate of the TRC.”