Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
January 22, 2001
Native justice petition drive to hit parishes
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON — The Social Justice Commission is urging Alberta Catholics to get involved in a Canada-wide action campaign for land and justice for aboriginal people.
Called Restoring Right Relations with Aboriginal Peoples, the campaign is a jubilee initiative aimed at enhancing understanding of aboriginal rights issues and the importance of land for native people.
It includes workshops on aboriginal issues as well as a petition drive asking the federal government to set up an independent commission to implement aboriginal land, treaty and inherent rights.
The petition, along with an information package, is currently being mailed to parishes in the Edmonton Archdiocese.
"The goal is to get as many people, churches and congregations involved in collecting names on the petition," said Social Justice Commission spokesperson Linda Winski.
"By signing the petition, we are calling for justice for aboriginal people and we are saying land rights need to be acknowledged and need to be resolved in a just manner."
Led nationally by the Canadian Ecumenical Jubilee Initiative and the Aboriginal Rights Coalition, the campaign explores the Jubilee Year III theme Renewal of the Earth from an aboriginal perspective. It calls for a renewed relationship with native peoples based on mutual respect, responsibility and sharing.
Jubilee, as a time for new beginnings, for restoring balance and justice between people and for renewing the Earth, is the time to form this new relationship, Winski said.
"This is what God requires of us. In situations where injustice exists, we need to do our part in restoring justice in the land."
The Canadian bishops and leaders of all other major Christian churches support the campaign, which began in September and will end in June with the delivery of signed petitions to the federal government.
In September the leaders, including Prince George Bishop Gerald Wiesner, president of the CCCB, said the federal government's land claims process has broken down.
Wiesner joined the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples in calling on Ottawa to provide a renewed process for recognizing and implementing aboriginal claims and rights.
Released in 1996, the 4,300-page royal commission report provides a 20-year strategy to "restore social, economic and political health to aboriginal peoples."
But as Church leaders have pointed out, Ottawa has failed to live up to the promises it made since the report was issued.
"We believe that in the name of justice and for the sake of a renewed common hope, it is morally necessary for Canadians to engage deeply with the issue of aboriginal rights to land and to natural resources," the Church leaders said in a Sept. 25 letter to all Christians.
"We are asking for prayerful reflection on (this) serious question of justice. It deserves careful, whole-hearted, conscientious attention - much more than has so far been accorded to it in Canada."
The leaders threw their support behind the petition drive and invited parishes, schools and other Church bodies to "study this cause and to take it up."
Winski said the Social Justice Commission will suggest parishes set aside a Sunday during Lent for signing the petition. She also said parishes could send representatives to the workshops to find out more specific details about the petition.
The next workshop on aboriginal rights issues will be held Feb. 23-24 at Southminster Steinhauer United Church, 10740-19 Ave.
Workshop facilitators include Ed Bianchi of the Aboriginal Rights Coalition, Susie Henderson of the Canadian Ecumenical Jubilee Initiative, Choice Okoro of the United Church of Canada and the Rev. Stan McKay, former moderator of the United Church of Canada.
Local groups behind the campaign also include Edmonton Area Jubilee Committee, the Edmonton and District Council of Churches and the Edmonton Interfaith Committee on Aboriginal Rights.
For more information on the campaign or the workshop call Linda Winski at 420-1306 or John Stellingwerff at 482-5522.
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.