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Letter on Indigenous people’s concerns to Canadian government

A letter sent Friday from the general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper calls on the Canadian government to “listen carefully” to the concerns of Canada’s Indigenous leaders.

11 January 2013

                                                             Geneva, January 11, 2013

Dear Prime Minister Harper,

I am writing on behalf of the World Council of Churches (WCC), raising a critical issue for the people of your country that is at the heart of our member churches in Canada and elsewhere.  We have been made aware of the strong message and action of Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence concerning the rights of Indigenous peoples in Canada.  We also recognize the significance and the strength of the concerns of the Idle No More movement.  Our member churches and the WCC strongly support and are attentive to this momentum for such important issues for your country and many countries in the world.  We ask you to listen carefully to her and the First Nations Chiefs’ concerns as she is calling on the Government of Canada to respect their right to self-determination and to respect and implement the treaties with Indigenous peoples.  These are genuine concerns for justice and peace; and, Canada has a significant role in the world wide work for justice for Indigenous peoples.

The World Council of Churches has been involved for many years in the justice struggles of Indigenous peoples.  This has been an important issue for us since the WCC Sixth Assembly that took place in Vancouver, Canada in 1983.   We deeply respect Chief Spence’s courageous and selfless act.  The movement has now been successful in drawing international attention to how historic and ongoing federal government policies and programs contradict Indigenous practices, and how they may undermine Indigenous peoples’ rights and discriminate against First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples in your country.

The WCC is encouraged by the attention and support this movement has generated. The national and global expressions of solidarity from non-Indigenous peoples are a clear indication of how many people want to see oppression and marginalization of Indigenous peoples replaced with just and equitable relationships.  

We support the work of KAIROS, the ecumenical organization that works in solidarity with Indigenous peoples on rights and justice issues.

We offer prayers for Chief Spence’s well-being and for her continued strength, for all Indigenous leaders and for a fruitful meeting  that will improve the relationships called for in the Final Report of the 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples - a relationship based on peace, friendship, sharing, respect and the mutual recognition of rights and responsibilities.  We pray for you and your leadership, so significant these days for all peoples in your country and elsewhere.

Sincerely yours,

Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit

General Secretary

World Council of Churches