Canada June 02, 2019
Archbishop hopes Indigenous women report has positive results
OTTAWA (CCN)—Archbishop Murray Chatlain of Keewatin-Le Pas says he hopes the June 3 report of the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls brings positive changes.
“We can’t comment on the report itself,” said the archbishop who co-chairs the Our Lady of Guadalupe Circle, a Catholic coalition that includes the Canadian Catholic Indigenous Council, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), the Catholic Religious Conference (CRC), Development and Peace/Caritas Canada and other groups and lay movements working towards reconciliation between the Catholic Church and Indigenous Peoples.
“We’re hopeful it brings up some positive changes. We see it as a significant piece in our own commitment to support the positive parts,” Archbishop Chatlain said.
The CCCB is also not ready to comment. “While the CCCB has received the report, a period of study of the document will be undertaken by various commissions and committees from which reflections, and possible recommendations, may be brought forward to the Conference for consideration,” said an email statement from the office of media coordination of the CCCB General Secretariat in Ottawa.
The massive report of two volumes, including a separate section on Quebec, includes 231 Calls to Justice, patterned after the 94 Calls to Action called for by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission into Indian Residential Schools.
However, this time, unlike the TRC Calls to Action, there are none directed specifically at the churches, though the document does refer to missionaries operating under colonialist policies aimed at removing the land of Indigenous Peoples and stripping them of their cultural identity, and in many instances, their lives.
“The report is not a little thing, but we intend to go through what we can and decide what’s an appropriate response,” the archbishop said.
Archbishop Chatlain did not comment on the report’s use of the word genocide to describe what happened to the Indigenous women and girls, having not read the report, but he acknowledged the much higher rate of violence they experience. According to Statistics Canada, they are 12 times more likely than non-Indigenous women to experience violence, the report says, and seven times more likely to be murdered.
“Personally, as archbishop of a diocese that includes many Indigenous communities, with virtually all having missing or murdered women, I’ve prayed at the sites where they have gone missing or been buried,” Archbishop Chatlain said. “We recognize the proportion has been way higher than in the population at large, so there is a definite concern about safety among women.”
Four of the seven organizations that launched the Circle in 2016, the CCCB, the CRC, Development and Peace, and the Canadian Catholic Aboriginal Council, responded to the TRC’s Calls to Action regarding support of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and on the Doctrine of Discovery and Terra Nullius, which allowed the Crown to claim sovereignty over Indigenous land.
“When we put out the document responding to the Doctrine of Discovery and support of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples we included seven commitments that included support for the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women and Girls,” Archbishop Chatlain said. “We take this as a significant piece.”
According to a CCCB news release from 2016, those commitments included:
“Working with Catholic educational institutions and formation programs in telling the history and experience of Indigenous Peoples - Working with seminaries and other formation centres to promote a ‘culture of encounter’ by including the history of the Indian Residential Schools and of Canadian missionary work with its ‘weaknesses and strengths’ - Encouraging partnerships between Indigenous groups and health care facilities - Encouraging a restorative justice model within the criminal justice system - Supporting the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women - Deepening relationships, dialogue and collaboration with Indigenous People - Inviting Catholic parishes and institutions to become better acquainted with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”
In 2017, the CCCB, the Canadian Catholic Aboriginal Council and the Our Lady of Guadalupe Circle issued a statement urging dioceses, eparchies, parishes, missions and other organizations to assist the Inquiry. Among the ten suggestions, were offering the use of parish halls or facilities so the Inquiry could hold its hearings; working with various Catholic charitable organizations to provide transportation to family members and participants; educating Catholics about human trafficking and modern slavery; assisting in efforts to identify and document and commemorate those who are murdered or missing; and highlighting the importance of the issue.
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