CoGS has endorsed a statement calling on the federal government to repeal a section of the Criminal Code of Canada that authorizes parents, guardians and teachers to forcibly discipline children.
On Nov. 6, CoGS voted to endorse “A Christian Theological Statement in Support of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action #6”, originally issued on Oct. 27, 2017. Among the signatories are clergy and scholars from a range of faith groups including the Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist and United churches.
Reflecting Call to Action #6, the statement calls on Ottawa to repeal section 43 of the code, which states: “Every schoolteacher, parent or person standing in the place of a parent is justified in using force by way of correction toward a pupil or child, as the case may be, who is under his care, if the force does not exceed what is reasonable under the circumstances.”
Canon Murray Still, co-chair of the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP), put forward the motion. The use of corporal punishment against children is directly related to residential schools, where many Indigenous children experienced physical abuse.
CoGS members discussed whether to support the motion. Some mentioned knowing parents who “in a loving way” have used physical force against children.
In response, National Indigenous Archbishop Mark MacDonald said, “What we’re trying to do is eliminate the possibility that Canada will beat children to death again … A vote to keep [section 43] is a vote to keep that possibility, and that’s why it’s part of the truth and reconciliation process. That’s why we’re supporting it. We don’t wish Canada to do this again.”
In a reflection shortly before the close of CoGS the following day, deputy prolocutor Judith Moses said she felt council did not have enough time to consider the full significance of the resolution before the vote.
“It wasn’t just a piece of business that we accomplished yesterday,” she said. “It’s a very important signal to Indigenous people in this country that we recognize what has transpired and that we remember these are all individuals. There isn’t an Indigenous person in this country who would be untouched by that resolution from yesterday.”
Moses recounted how her own grandfather was deaf in one ear after being beaten by an Anglican nun for speaking his traditional language in a playground. For the rest of his life, she said, her grandfather lived with a disability caused by the church.
Before bringing forward the motion, Still gave a report to CoGS about the latest developments with ACIP and Indigenous Ministries. Indigenous Anglican leaders have learned to use Zoom to gather while continuing to put gospel-based discipleship at the heart of their work, Still said. Many Indigenous communities have been locked in due to the pandemic, he added. In response, Indigenous Ministries put together a lay leadership development program that allowed lay leaders in communities to continue their studies and take up the task of pastoral care.
ACIP has worked with partners, particularly the Canadian Red Cross, to respond to the suicide crisis among young people and to support Indigenous communities that have had to evacuate due to wildfires. The loss of so many elders and Indigenous Anglican leaders during the pandemic had left a “huge hole in our hearts,” Still said. Before her death in 2021, Ginny Doctor had created educational podcasts that proved helpful in the time of COVID-19. National gospel jamborees online provided some spiritual relief during the pandemic.
However, the discovery of unmarked graves at residential school sites across Canada has caused a sense of grief and loss in Indigenous communities, Still said.
The subject of the self-determining Indigenous church also came up in an update to CoGS given Nov. 6 by Strategic Planning Working Group (SPWG) chair Moses, member Ian Alexander and member and congregational development consultant Janet Marshall. Each spoke on consultations the SPWG has been holding with Anglicans across Canada as it puts together a strategic plan for the church.
The consultations found that Anglicans embraced mutual interdependence of the Indigenous church and the wider church, SPWG members said. However, they added, Anglicans also asked whether all church members are ready for the change this represents, as well as how to work out the relationships between Sacred Circle and dioceses, provinces and congregations.