Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
June 4, 2001
Bishops call for healing with natives
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS
OTTAWA — The president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has challenged Catholics to help heal "a major breach in our nations community" - the relationship between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians.
"This breakdown is not only economic and social, although the rates of poverty, suicide, incarceration and infant mortality among aboriginal Canadians are many times greater than the national average," said Bishop Gerald Wiesner in a message for Pentecost on June 3.
"The breach also lies in our hesitant inability to communicate our dreams, hopes, aspirations and visions for a better future and so move together to positive action."
Last September, the bishops and other Church leaders called on the federal government to act immediately to set up an independent aboriginal land rights commission to implement native land, treaty and inherent rights.
They also took part in the launch of a petition campaign coordinated by the Aboriginal Rights Coalition and the Canadian Ecumenical Jubilee Initiative in support of the aboriginal land rights commission.
"We realized that the recognition and implementation of those rights is central to restoring the autonomy and dignity of aboriginal communities and to the healing of the relationship between aboriginal and non-aboriginal peoples," said Wiesner.
Although the settling of land claims has also been the message of several studies, including the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, "we unfortunately do not see much progress to celebrate," he said.
"The processes for settling land claims have for the most part produced frustration, failure and breakdown."
Wiesner said a gridlock has been created, mainly because a "truly independent claims body" has yet to be set up.
Wiesner also said renewed actions to heal the relationship with aboriginal peoples "are among the defining signs of the presence of the Spirit in the Church in Canada."
Colonialism and the residential school system often "tragically undermined the dignity and autonomy of aboriginal individuals, families and communities," he said.
"Pentecost is a timely reminder of how God continually invites us to make room for and to collaborate with all peoples."
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