World Council of Churches

A worldwide fellowship of churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service

You are here: Home / Resources / Documents / WCC commissions and working groups / Commission of the Churches on International Affairs / Regional concerns / North America / Canada - Legal claims against the federal government and the churches arising from past practices in residential schools for children of native peoples

Canada - Legal claims against the federal government and the churches arising from past practices in residential schools for children of native peoples

05 July 2000

Letter from the General Secretary to member churches in Canada: Anglican Church of Canada, Presbyterian Church of Canada, United Church of Canada, 5 July 2000.

Dear Friends,

Aware of the critical consequences for your churches of claims resulting from the past practices in residential schools that have been filed against the federal government and against your churches, we wish to express our ecumenical solidarity with you in your efforts to find just and viable responses that would contribute to healing. We are reassured to see the strength of ecumenism in Canada as we read of your and other churches' efforts to work together in confronting this challenge in a responsible way.

We believe that churches around the world have much to learn from your witness as you explore alternatives to adversarial court proceedings to bring about needed reconciliation, and as you consider the possible consequences for the churches. The fact that you began to confront the painful legacy of the residential schools and showed your willingness early on to confront openly the churches' role in a system which caused significant damage to aboriginal peoples gives credibility to your efforts now. You have publicly admitted and apologized for your part in this tragedy, often as instruments of the Canadian Government's educational system. You have taken a lead in supporting the First Nations' claims for justice. You have taken significant steps to address the discrimination against native peoples in the lives of your own churches. These are necessary first steps towards reconciliation. The next step is compensation for the harm done. You are not alone in having to struggle with the moral, ethical, theological and financial implications of the enormous claims involved in this case. Churches in many parts of the world are likely soon to have to confront similar challenges. We hope to learn from and share your experience as you seek ways to build reconciling communities through mediation and other creative alternatives which favor restorative justice over acts of retribution.

We do not pretend to understand all the complexities of the legal issues involved or to advise you on how to proceed. But we wish to assure you that our thoughts and prayers are with you as you seek faithfully to contribute to healing the wounds of the past and to stand with the Indigenous Peoples of Canada in their continuing struggles for justice. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "If one member [of the body] suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it."

                                     Yours in Christ,

                                                                   Konrad Raiser
                                                                   General Secretary