In response to our recent history of finding unmarked gravesites on former residential school property here in Canada as well as a number of other past and ongoing injustices that Indigenous People face, our national social justice committee formed a sub committee titled the Indigenous Sharing Circle. (ISC).
The Indigenous Sharing Circle supports taking actions for reconciliation with the Indigenous Peoples of Canada, including First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities. We are committed to establishing ways and means which enable the creation of a meaningful relationship with Indigenous Peoples that includes both listening and sharing and leads to an understanding and respect of Indigenous history, law, culture and faith traditions.
We are also committed to incorporating indigenous participation and leadership in all our related actions including advocacy, especially where there are injustices requiring systemic change to structures and attitudes. There is no doubt that these injustices have a disproportionately high level of suffering to Indigenous Peoples, resulting in poverty and other forms of suffering.
The ISC has members from the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul as well as Indigenous leaders from across Canada which meets monthly in an open, sharing exchange of ideas, comments and action planning. There are many issues that affect Indigenous Peoples today, but systemic racism is certainly a major one which dates to our early colonial days when white settlers arrived. It continued in various unjust laws and reached its peak with the establishment of residential schools, an area our Catholic church was heavily involved in.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) provided many previously unheard indigenous voices to describe their experiences with residential schools and systemic racism. The TRC left us with a list of 94 Calls To Action for governments and Canadians to address. As a Catholic lay organization, we face barriers created by misguided actions of the Catholic church whenever we reach out to the indigenous community. The Catholic church is taking positive actions in response to the TRC but it will take time. The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul has the opportunity to act as a positive example of our Catholic faith in action. Please pray for our success in our own Calls to Action.
About the author:
Jim Paddon lives in London, Ontario, Canada and is a Canadian Vincentian. He is currently chair of the National Social Justice Committee of the Society in Canada. He is married to his dear wife Pat and they have six daughters and eleven grandchildren. Jim has been a member of the Society since the 1970’s.
I respectfully acknowledge the traditional, unceded territories of the Indigenous Peoples, including First Nations, Metis and Inuit, on which lands we meet, work and live.