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Advocacy Issues

Five Recommendations for Police Reforms

Date 9 Nov, 2021

Category Advocacy Issues

Today our Advocacy Manager, Didi Dufresne, is speaking to the BC Legislative Assembly on Reforming the Police Act with the following recommendations:

5 Points Overview of Recommendation: 1. Granting self-governance to Indigenous People, who will no longer be subjected to police authority without consent. 2. Banning police street checks. 3. Decriminalizing sex work, drug possession, public intoxication, poverty discrimination, immigration status, and Indigenous land defense. 4. Establishing police accountability through independent, transparent, third-party oversight bodies. 5. Banning police from carrying lethal force weapons in Indigenous, Black, and low-income neighbourhoods. For Didi’s full recommendation and rationale for on Reforming the Police Act and rationale, click here.

For immediate release: BC Tenants’ Rights Advocates Unite to Call for Eviction Ban

Date 9 Nov, 2021

Category Advocacy Issues

For Immediate Release

March 24, 2020

Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories

Yesterday, Canadians were given a clear and direct order from Prime Minister Trudeau: “go home and stay home.” But how can renters stay home when threatened with losing their homes through evictions?

Tenants’ rights advocates in BC are calling on the provincial government to ensure renters can stay in their homes by issuing a complete moratorium on all evictions and enforcement of evictions. The Community Legal Assistance Society (CLAS) along with the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre (TRAC), First United Church Community Ministry Society (First United) and Disability Alliance BC (DABC) are urging the government to take these extreme measures to ensure the safety not just of renters, but of the community as a whole.

“This is not just a tenants’ issue. Evicted tenants trying to secure new housing are forced to have significant contact with others when viewing rental units, hiring movers, taking public transit and by opening up their current rental units to prospective tenants,” said Didi Dufresne, legal advocate at First United. Vulnerable renters facing the threat of homelessness would add additional pressure to shelters and other community services.

Ontario and Quebec have led the charge in Canada by halting evictions over a week ago – a week which saw the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in BC more than quadruple in number. Bans on evictions in other jurisdictions and a recommendation to social housing providers for a moratorium on evictions for non-payment of rent from BC Housing have led to confusion among BC’s renters about their rights during this time. “We have had calls from tenants wondering if they can be evicted right now,” said Zuzana Modrovic, a lawyer with TRAC. “They see what is happening in other places and the messaging to self-isolate and some assume that they can’t be evicted. Unfortunately, for most tenants, that is not the case. Aside from the few organizations like BC Housing that have recommended a halt on evictions for non-payment of rent, there is nothing in place right now to prevent the majority of tenants from being evicted.”

Allowing any evictions to continue during this time conflicts with the measures taken by various levels of government to enforce social distancing. Parks and recreation facilities across Metro Vancouver have been closed. Government health officers are repeatedly asking people to maintain social distances. Businesses that violate the City of Vancouver’s State of Emergency Bylaw by failing to comply with social-distancing orders could be fined as much as $50,000, and individuals could be fined up to $1,000. Yet evictions, which necessitate close social interaction, are continuing.

Many renters rely on in-person service delivery from both legal advocates and the Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) which provides dispute resolution services for landlords and tenants. As health officials and government leaders continue to urge individuals to socially-distance, legal advocacy organizations are increasingly challenged to provide client services, and may eventually be left with no other choice but to shut their doors, possibly leaving many renters to navigate complex legal matters on their own without any legal supports or services. The RTB has already ceased in-person services and is delivering services either by phone or online only. While some renters may still be able to navigate the transition to a world of online-only services, this transition will adversely impact vulnerable renters who are not able to access these services.

“A complete ban on evictions and enforcement of evictions is the only way to effectively protect our communities from COVID-19,” said Danielle Sabelli, CLAS lawyer. “We are hopeful the BC Government will be announcing this ban tomorrow.”

Send media requests to:

Brenda Jones, APR [email protected] Cel. 604-312-1070

Open Letter to Minister Shane Simpson on COVID-19 Supports: April 7, 2020

Date 9 Nov, 2021

Category Advocacy Issues

We appreciate Minister Simpson’s quick and responsive action for people with disabilities, low-income workers, and others dependent on income assistance to meet their needs in the face of COVID-19. We are relieved to see that many of the actions we called for have been implemented by the provincial government.

But we know there are still people left behind. We want to ensure no once falls through the cracks during this pandemic, including people relying on CPP-D, sex workers, street vendors and binners. We also ask the Minister to ensure that everyone who needs to access the BC Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, can do so safety, and without barriers – even if they don’t have a phone, or a computer, or rely on the help of an advocate.

Click here to read our full follow-up letter to Shane Simpson, B.C. Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction.

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Lenten Season Series, Part 7

Date 12 Apr, 2022

Category Ministry

This week’s post is the final thoughts about Lent and Holy week. Each week during Lent we’re featuring a post by Indigenous Spiritual Care Chaplain, Lauren Sanders to support your own spiritual traditions and reflection. 

Lauren is a multi-faith spiritual care provider, which means her worldview tries to be open-hearted, supportive, and respectful. Her faith traditions that power her caregiving are some combination of Christianity and Indigenous ways of being and doing. Lent is a type of season for certain types of Christians. If your faith tradition doesn’t have a “Lenten Season”, please join us anyway as we journey through this false-spring, where we swing between winter’s finish and spring’s allergies. We are learning how to rediscover our sense of wonderment. 

Thank you for reading! Thank you for joining me these seven weeks! Thank you for being brave! Thank you for exploring wonderment, awe, amazement, imagination, sparks of curiosity, and threads of inspiration! In this year’s final Lenten blog , we will express gratitude. 

Gratitude and wonderment are cousins. They tend to walk hand in hand. When we are filled with gratitude, exploring amazement is easier. When we are inspired by a sense of awe, we can communicate that as thankfulness. 

I am grateful for Holy Week. For those of you who do not observe these religious holidays, I offer you a quick primer about this “week.” Sunday, April 10, 2022 was Palm Sunday. It marked the last Sunday of Lent. This day was sometimes celebrated with a joyous parade and a waving of Palm branches, remembering when people saw Jesus coming into Jerusalem for the final time. He had journeyed outside of Jerusalem for a while, so when he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, folks waved Palm branches. Holy Monday and Holy Tuesday commemorate the days when Jesus angrily flipped tables in the temple (because greed and injustice has no place in sacred space), and when Jesus predicted his death. Today is Holy Wednesday and tomorrow Holy Thursday. These two days mark when leaders decided Jesus’s radical culture of justice, compassion, redistribution, and equity needed to die along with Jesus, and when Jesus had the last supper with his disciples. Our reading below comes from these days’ events. Good Friday marks Jesus’s crucifixion and death. It’s a somber holiday where we remember Jesus’s teachings and radical love as what is good. Holy Saturday is the last day of Lent and is an occasion of grief and mourning. We remember Jesus was human, and we grapple with Jesus’s death. Holy week ends with Easter Sunday and Easter Monday. We celebrate and commemorate Jesus’s miraculous resurrection.  

Yeah, I know. That was not very in-depth, but it sets the tone for the rest of the blog post… 

Last month, I went to my first sweat lodge. It was my first sweat lodge because when I was growing up, I was told and believed that most Indigenous cultural practices were sinful. I was inherently sinful because of the color of my skin. These two beliefs are wrong. I know this because I went on a decade-long spiritual journey asking myself questions like are Indigenous cultural practices bad, sinful, wrong? Am I sinful because my skin isn’t white as snow? If these beliefs are Christian, am I a Christian? What would Jesus say? Why are these beliefs about my culture and my skin ascribed to Christianity? If I decide I am still a follower of Jesus, how will I be accountable for all of the co-opted and wrong stuff we all still believe? 

In the sacred text I’ve chosen to highlight today, John 18:1-27, there are actually two stories happening at the same time. Jesus has been detained and goes before his community’s religious leaders to answer for his outrageous behavior (particularly the table incident). He answers truthfully and with sass. Meanwhile Simon Peter (aka Peter) has a very different experience. Many interpreters of this part of Peter’s story call it “Peter’s Denial of Jesus.” In the sacred text, Jesus’s bold story is interwoven with Peter’s denials. Most readers of the text would pick up on the stark contrast and celebrate Jesus while shaming Peter. But, my dears, let me remind you: Jesus knows he’s gonna die. Jesus’s brave method, which I continue to wholeheartedly celebrate, tends to ensure pain, suffering, and death for a majority of martyrs.  

Let’s stop and breathe. A slow filling your belly breath in through your nose, and a slow audible breath out through your mouth…aaaaahhhhh. Do that a couple more times. 

Before we go any further, I have to tell you… I am thankful for Simon Peter’s denials.  

You see, in Canada and the US, there were a series of laws and governmental acts that made Indigenous spiritual and cultural practices and traditions illegal, sinful, and deemed wrong to do. The ultimate goal was genocide, both fast and slow. And, Indigenous communities were not the only peoples this method was used on. 

Resistance to these laws took many forms, more than I’m going to write about today. One form of resistance might be seen in Jesus’s method of bravely being himself and continuing to practice these traditions. And as you might guess, punishments were severe or deadly. Another form of resistance was blending an accepted religious tradition with the original one. This blending was already occurring prior to the unjust laws.  

The one I want to focus on today is the people like Peter, who hid or denied. These folks hid what they did by either hiding out in the wilderness or publicly denying involvement in illegal spiritual practices. Many times the people hiding had a protective layer of people who denied. People who hid might receive supplies from people who denied. Or people who denied might block access to or send warnings of intruders.  

Because of the hiders and deniers, I, in my early 40s, could learn about and participate in my community’s spiritual practices of sweat lodge from an Elder, a cousin. I will always have so much to learn, and I am deeply grateful to my ancestors who resisted by denying or hiding. 

As you read my retelling, let’s spend some time reflecting: 

  • I wonder where you find thankfulness and gratitude in the story. 
  • I wonder how your spiritual journey incorporates thankfulness and gratitude. 
  • I wonder where you rediscover a sense of wonder in this story of Peter. 

The Retelling of that one night of Peter vs the community 

Judas, the disciple who betrayed, brought a company of soldiers and some guards who were employed by Jerusalem’s religious leaders. The guards came carrying lanterns, torches, and weapons. Jesus knew what was up and that it was time to make his last goodbyes… 

Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck one of the guards, cutting off his right ear. 

Jesus told Peter, “Put your sword away!” Then the company of soldiers, the commander, and the guards took Jesus into custody.  

In shock, Simon Peter followed Jesus. When Jesus went in to be interrogated, Peter stood outside near the gate. A servant woman stationed at the gate brought Peter in. She asked Peter, “Aren’t you one of Jesus’s disciples?” 

“I’m not,” Peter replied. The servants and the guards had made a fire in the cold night. They warmed themselves. Peter joined them there, standing by the fire and warming himself. 

The servants and the guards asked, “Aren’t you one of Jesus’s disciples?” 

Peter denied it, saying, “I’m not.” 

 A servant who was a relative of the one whose ear Peter had cut off, said to him, “Didn’t I see you in the garden with Jesus?” Peter denied it again, and immediately a rooster crowed for morning time. 

Find all of the Lenten Season Series posts and more on our Ministry Resources page.

Lenten Season Series, Part 6

Date 6 Apr, 2022

Category Ministry

This week’s post is about redistribution and equity. Each week during Lent we’re featuring a post by Indigenous Spiritual Care Chaplain, Lauren Sanders to support your own spiritual traditions and reflection. 

Lauren is a multifaith spiritual care provider, which means her worldview tries to be open-hearted, supportive, and respectful. Her faith traditions that power her caregiving are some combination of Christianity and Indigenous ways of being and doing. Lent is a type of season for certain types of Christians. If your faith tradition doesn’t have a “Lenten Season”, please join us anyway as we journey through this false-spring, where we swing between winter’s finish and not-yet-spring. We are learning how to rediscover our sense of wonderment. 

“That’s not fair!” 

I have said these words so many times. Sometimes I yelled it with indignation because my rights were impacted. Sometimes I whimpered these words with sorrow as my heart broke in grief. Sometimes I snarled these words with jealousy, fueling a bit of cruelty. “That’s not fair!” can convey so many emotions and meanings, but I cannot think of a way to say it that conveys a sense of wonderment. 

Oftentimes, we answer the cry for fairness with “Life isn’t fair”, like shrugged shoulders and a tough stance only helps us survive. But is it true? Is life, generally, really not fair to all living beings? 

Life and death are entwined and have always been. It’s true that no living being is guaranteed life without change or suffering. But how we approach life and death, how we have relationship with all of creation, that is up to us!  

We as a community and as individuals within our communities have agreed to live in this current system of injustice. We agreed for whatever reasons: it’s always been this way; some of us like the benefits we get for living this way; some of us have someone or something to blame for the suffering; we can’t imagine another way; that’s not how it’s done; it’s hard to turn over a new leaf; no community, that I know of, has done that before; and so on.  

Take a deep breath with me. Let it out slowly. Repeat this soothing breathing while considering the possibility that we can live together in ways that make life fair for all. Let’s open our sense of curiosity and stretch our sense of wonderment. What would it look like to make life fair for all? 

We learn from sacred texts and stories that fairness isn’t equality. Though, many times fairness must begin with everyone having equal amounts of resources. In many spiritualities, creation stories have a baseline of equality. From birth, we have either all we need, or a way to get what we need. At least, that’s what creation stories from across the global tell us. So this means what we do to each other diminishes what life on this planet gave us, originally.  

Justice equity is when our goal is justice (see last week’s post), but we recognize not all of our community will be able to live in justice. So, we as a community—together as a community—do something about that. Usually, equity needs the community to change how we use and pass out resources like food, clothing, tools, and ways of getting what we need, as well as how we show each other compassion, and chances for healthy growth and spiritual development all at the same time. This is called redistribution. 

Our sacred stories tell us we need a way to help get back to creation’s original gift and explore wonders beyond. When we listen to each other’s cultural stories, we hear inspiring systems of equity and redistribution of resources that allow communities to care for all living beings. We hear histories of people recognizing differences as spiritual gifts needed for the betterment of community. We also hear cautionary stories of what happens when those communities made mistakes or failed, and how they repaired relationships or not. 

In the Gospel books of the Christian sacred text, there are many stories of equity and redistribution, especially from the Gospel of Luke. My favorite story of equity and redistribution is in Matthew and Mark. It is the story of the Syrophoenician woman from Matthew 15:21-28 and Mark 7:24-30. This story tends to be ignored when it shows up to be read in the Christian calendar, just as the woman in the story was. Or, this story is interpreted to gentle Jesus’s words, as though Jesus couldn’t have made mistakes or been influenced by the culture he loved. Today, let’s explore this story with curiosity and amazement. 

As you read my retelling, let’s spend some time reflecting: 

  • I wonder where you find redistribution and equity in the story and who is advocating for it. 
  • I wonder how your communities do equity and redistribution. 
  • I wonder where you rediscover a sense of wonder in the story of the Syrophoenician woman. 

The Retelling of the Syrophoenician Woman  

Jesus was tired from the foolishness of his own people, especially people who should know better. He left that place and went into the district of Tyre. You know the one, over by Sidon. Anyway, Jesus told the disciples to let him have some self-care time. He entered a house, trying to hide out for a bit. But, nah, that didn’t work. News travelled quick, even back in the day. I think Jesus’ disciples were a bit gossipy, and you know how bored some townspeople are.  

This woman heard that Jesus was relaxin’ over at the Airbnb. She had a little girl, who had “an unclean spirit.” Townfolks said dumb stuff like that for anything they couldn’t explain. They didn’t know the full story. This woman’s daughter was brilliant, bringing sunshine to her life, even though being a single mother was extremely difficult. Not only that but her well-known relatives were Syrophoenician and Greek instead of being a Tyrian or Sidonite. Actually, this woman’s parents’ peoples were Canaanite, indigenous folks living on this land before any of these knuckleheads. On top of that, she wasn’t even the same religion as a lot of these folks… so yeah, life sucked here. She had decided a while ago to keep her head down and work those side-hustles.  

When this woman heard about Jesus, she said to herself, “I could get rid of this unclean spirit nonsense.” She and her daughter would still be considered outsiders as foreigners, but at least her daughter would have a chance at a better life. She ran to find Jesus, shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, son of David! I need help!” She thought if she talked like someone from Jerusalem, maybe he’d help.  

He ignored her. Of course. 

Jesus’ entourage didn’t ignore her. They wanted to get rid of her. Apparently, pushy women are annoying. 

“Well, that’s not gonna happen today” she thought as she kneeled in front of Jesus. She begged him to throw the demon out of her daughter. She would make this man see her, this man whose words carried so much power and access. 

He quietly gave some lame brush-off answer about not being for her people. And honestly, no one was for her people; it hurt so much! She thought about her daughter having a chance at a good life, not having to go through so much struggle. She felt more determination and continued demanding help. 

And this “great” man of God said, “The children have to be fed first. It isn’t right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” 

Like, seriously!?! She sighed, if she had a nickel for every freakin’ insult, she wouldn’t need a blessing from this fool. So, she answered, “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Because if your logic is dumb and oppressive, I might as well point it out to your face, she thought.  

This Jesus looked at her for the first time. He grunted, “Good answer! Go on home. The demon has already left your daughter.”  

Could it be? She ran home hopeful. When she returned to her house, she found her beautiful daughter there, bright as ever, playing with the next-door neighbor kid. The kid’s mom said, “I heard the demon left…” 

Find all of the Lenten Season Series posts and more on our Ministry Resources page.

Response to the Pope’s Apology to Residential School Survivors

Date 1 Apr, 2022

Category Ministry, Reconciliation in Action

This morning, the Pope apologized for abuses against Indigenous children at Catholic residential schools. For decades survivors, advocates, and communities have been asking for the Catholic Church’s apology.

Though she is on sabbatical, Executive Director the Rev. Dr. Carmen Lansdowne shared a statement:

“The Pope’s apology this morning is an important first step towards completion of the TRC’s Call to Action #58 which calls specifically on the Pope, as the head of the Roman Catholic Church, to apologize, and to apologize in Canada. While it was unexpected to hear the words “I’m sorry” from His Holiness this morning, my hope is that it is an indication that when the Pope visits Canada later this year, that he make a formal apology on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church to survivors. The apology needs to not just be about the actions of the priests, nuns, and other staff of Catholic residential schools, but for the systemic design and generational legacies of the school as a tool of colonization, oppression and cultural genocide. Then the apology needs to be backed up with tangible amends, like making whole on the financial reparations and release of all the archival documents set out in the Settlement Agreements.”

As part of the United Church of Canada, as an Indigenous-led organization that serves people who have suffered abuse because of colonization, residential schools, and racism, and as an organization committed to the pursuit of justice, we see this as a long-overdue but important recognition. We hope that leaders in the Catholic Church and throughout all communities of faith continue to take accountability and commit to truth-listening and reconciliation.

For more of FIRST UNITED’s work on faith and reconciliation visit our Ministry Resources and our Reconciliation in Action Resources.

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Newsletters & Toast Talks

Toast Talks: March 2022

Date 21 Mar, 2022

Category Newsletters & Toast Talks

Toast Talks are a series of information sessions during which members of the FIRST UNITED team offer updates, insights, and information about our work to our communities of faith, volunteers, donors, stakeholders, and friends. To make sure you never miss out on invitations to Toast Talks, subscribe to our emails.

On March 17th, almost one year to day since our first Toast Talks, we virtually gathered to look back on our 2020-2021 fiscal year! Executive Director Camren Lansdowne walked attendees through highlights and accomplishments of the latest Annual Report, and we heard from long-time First United Case Planner Stephanie Kallstrom about what working the frontlines in the Downtown Eastside is like.

Plus, we were able to share a few big pieces of news including our Imagine Canada accreditation and information about staff changes. Watch the recording below!

Toast Talks: November 2021

Date 8 Dec, 2021

Category Newsletters & Toast Talks

Toast Talks are a new series of information sessions during which members of the FIRST UNITED team offer updates, insights, and information about our work to our communities of faith, volunteers, donors, stakeholders and friends.

At Toast Talk events on November 18 and 19, 2021, FIRST UNITED announced the launch of its $30 million First Forward Building Connections Campaign to fund the redevelopment of FIRST’s site at 320 East Hastings.

Participants got a closer look at the details of the redevelopment, our campaign targets, and campaign video. They also got a sneak peek at FIRST UNITED’s new Food First food truck, and some insights into our Community Meal Program from Food Services Manager Bert Canete.

Watch the November 2021 Toast Talks below

And check out our November 2021 issue of our newsletter First Things First below

First United Fall Newsletter – Digital

Toast Talks: June 2021

Date 9 Nov, 2021

Category Newsletters & Toast Talks

Toast Talks are a new series of information sessions during which members of the FIRST UNITED team offer updates, insights, and information about our work to our communities of faith, volunteers, donors, stakeholders and friends.

Couldn’t make it to the June edition of Toast Talks, or want to watch it again? Our June 24th session was recorded! For years, we’ve been exploring opportunities to enhance the level of community, connection, and care that we offer to our community members. We’ve dropped a few crumbs about what we’re planning, but now we’re eager to share a bigger slice!

In this edition we highlight our summer newsletter and some exciting details about the upcoming redevelopment of FIRST UNITED. Plus, Amanda Pellerine, our CVITP Income Tax Coordinator offers an inside look at the impact of our tax program—just one of the many programs that will grow and thrive as we move forward.

Learn more about the redevelopment, tax program, and check out a preview of our recent op-ed Truth and Reconciliation, A Living History in our Summer 2021 edition of First Things First, our triannual newsletter.


To receive invitations to future Toast Talk events, get the newsletter delivered straight to your inbox, and more, subscribe to our email updates.

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Reconciliation in Action

On Residential Schools

Date 9 Nov, 2021

Category Reconciliation in Action

Take a moment to read a poem by Dr. Cheryl Bear, First United’s Director of Community Ministry. Cheryl wrote the poem in response to the bodies of 215 children discovered in May 2021 at Kamloops Residential School in Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation territory.

CW: residential schools, trauma, grief

take your time take days sit with the grief of these daunting days sit with her and let her weep let her crawl into bed way too early and out of bed way too late let her cancel all the shopping trips all the plans and just sit with her stroke her hair and tell her, reassure her that things will get, no are getting better even if they are only won in court battles or through shaming the government into action (shame, shame on them) all of this work was not in vain every lecture every slide every chart exposed the truth and now everyone can see it took all of us to get here, to heal to change now it will take all of us again to get there to heal to change so our grandbabies can truly be free and can have better days and lives and deaths

…words spoken on a tear soaked day, still reeling from the news and praying for our courageous and powerful Elders, our Residential School Survivors – for my late mom, my Aunties and Uncles, grandparents, for all our relations.

Sunday May 30, 2021

In peace, Cheryl (Nadleh Whut’en First Nation) Director of Community Ministry, First United

National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

Date 9 Nov, 2021

Category Reconciliation in Action

September 30 is Canada’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation – a day we honour the lost children, the 150,000+ children who attended residential schools and those who have died since.

September 30 is a now federal statutory holiday and the leadership at FIRST decided to recognize it as well, to enable staff to have time to reflect, learn and deepen their own understanding.

Although the stories of unmarked graves are no longer making headlines, we recognize there are now confirmations of well over 6,000 graves across the country – surely with many more thousands to come.

Wear Orange

On Orange Shirt Day, which also takes place today, we remember those children who were taken from their families and recognize the impact it’s still having today.

Orange Shirt Day is based on the experience of Phyllis Webstad, a Northern Secwpemc (Shuswap) from the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation, who arrived on her first day of residential school dressed in a new orange shirt.

Her orange shirt was taken away from her and has become a symbol of how freedom, culture and self-esteem were systemically taken away from our Indigenous children and their families over generations.

On September 29, we held a community engagement event and handed out free orange shirts to community members – designed by one of our staff, Joseph Robertson (Haisla First Nation) – so that anyone in our community who wanted to wear an orange shirt today had access to one.

Our truth and reconciliation priorities

So where do we go from here? We see today as a rallying cry to focus on changing priorities and encouraging our leaders to take action.

FIRST is working toward reconciliation in action, and an important part of that is acknowledging the histories of colonization, systemic racism and the impacts of residential schools, the 60’s Scoop, and the disproportionate number of Indigenous children in non-Indigenous foster care.

We advocate for the enactment of all 94 of the TRC Calls to Action and the 423 recommendations of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, and the implementation of 231 ‘imperative changes’ called for by the National Inquiry on Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls.

We have signed on to an open letter to the BC Government with other members of the MMIWG2S+ Coalition calling for more protection for Indigenous women, girls and Two-Spirit people.

We encourage you in your learning journey and to educate your children in the TRC Calls to Action.

We’re committed to deepening our practice of reconciliation and the pursuit of justice, today and every day. Let’s do this together, as a community and as a nation.

Truth and Reconciliation, a Living History

Date 9 Nov, 2021

Category Reconciliation in Action

This op-ed was originally published in The Tyee on June 14, 2021. You can find the op-ed on The Tyee’s website.

By the Rev. Dr. Carmen Lansdowne (Heiltsuk First Nation) Executive Director; Dr. Cheryl Bear (Nadleh Whut’en First Nation) Director of Community Ministry; and Lauren Sanders (Prairie Band Potawatomi and Kickapoo Nation of Kansas) Indigenous Spiritual Care Chaplain.


Reconciliation has been a buzzword since the conclusion of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015. Everyone wants to know how to “walk in reconciliation” but doesn’t often want to hear the answer. Many of our Indigenous Chiefs and leaders have said Canada uses those words to distract us while they are busy carrying on with business as usual behind the scenes.

The phrase “truth and reconciliation” was chosen by residential school survivors based on the South African model. They could have just asked for truth, but instead the victims of some of the most horrendous crimes in Canada asked for reconciliation.

One of our Grand Chiefs said that everything we as Indigenous people have today, we won in the court. It’s not reconciliation if it had to be won through the courts.

The news of the 215 unmarked graves of children in Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc territory did not surprise any Indigenous people. We all knew because we listened to the stories of the residential school survivors, and we believed them. Sadly, many in Canada did not. Now there is proof. And there will be more proof.

We also need you to grieve with us, and not only to grieve but to act, to change, so that our descendants can have a better future.

We are all deeply grieving. One Elder we know, a residential school survivor, ended up in the hospital with chest pains after hearing this daunting news. It has brought up memories of the trauma we have all experienced as Indigenous people directly connected to these schools.

We have been leaning into ceremony, gathering, trying our best to grieve these children — our lost babies. We need prayer, yes. But we also need you to grieve with us, and not only to grieve but to act, to change, so that our descendants can have a better future.

The late May confirmation of the mass grave has shocked us back into a state of realization that truth and reconciliation is not just a question of a dead history whose remains have been forgotten. There is important work that needs doing. As Indigenous people, we need all Canadians to witness and participate in that work.

As Indigenous people, we need all Canadians to witness and participate in the work of deconstructing the myth of “dead history” and engage with truth and reconciliation as a living history. All Canadians must listen to the truth-telling of residential school survivors and accept that the trauma of residential schools is ongoing and continues to impact Indigenous communities.

All Canadians must ask themselves who benefits from seeing residential schools as a “dead history,” and who benefits from the understanding that residential schools and truth and reconciliation is a living history.

Truth-telling is not an Indigenous-only practice. Truth-telling requires non-Indigenous people to accept the truths being told with respect, to apologize and to accept responsibility. These 215 babies now have the chance to tell the truth. The grief of Indigenous peoples helps them tell it.

For non-Indigenous people, the bodies of 215 children were unearthed from a dead history. For Indigenous people, this history was never dead — a history that all Indigenous people are currently, and have never stopped, living.

Now it is the turn of non-Indigenous people. The framework has been given. The protocol from the TRC has to be followed. Acceptance of the truth, apology and taking ownership of responsibility are the steps.

Call to Action number 58 is for “the Pope to issue an apology to Survivors, their families, and communities for the Catholic Church’s role in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical and sexual abuse” of Indigenous peoples. To date, the Anglican Church and the United Church have issued apologies and have both committed to the full adoption of the TRC Calls to Action, making structural and staffing changes in order to continue the work of the truth and reconciliation journey.

While the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has again issued a statement of “deep sorrow,” they continue to uphold the 2018 position of the Vatican not to offer an apology when it was requested by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2017.

Repentance is a core value of the Christian faith commonly understood as an expression of remorse or regret. In this sense, we believe the statement of deep sorrow from our Roman Catholic brothers in leadership. Another faithful biblical interpretation of repentance is the act of turning around in a return to right relationship — right relationships with the Creator, with each other, with the whole of creation. It is all our responsibility to continuously pursue repentance in our relationships with God and all that God has created; otherwise, absolution would be unnecessary.

As Indigenous women who are in ministry leadership, we pray that the discovery of the bodies of these children remind everyone that their legacy lives on. We pray the Pope chooses to hear the cries of the spirits of these 215 babies, change the Vatican’s previous decision, and make the apology requested by the survivors of Canadian residential schools.


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