Letter to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development from the Episcopal Commission for Social Affairs

Monday, March 31 1997
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Mr. Ronald A. Irwin, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
10 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0H4

Dear Mr. Irwin:

We are writing to you concerning the federal government's plans to respond to the many issues raised by the final report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP).

As part of the RCAP process, in the brief of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops to the RCAP panel, entitled Let Justice Flow Like a Mighty River, we made a commitment to "continue to dialogue and journey with the Aboriginal Peoples as they continue their voyage of spiritual discovery and their quest for social and economic justice." For its part, the RCAP report stated that, "Of all the non-governmental institutions in Canadian society, religious institutions have perhaps the greatest potential to foster awareness and understanding between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people."

We have made initial attempts to keep this covenant, and plan to continue to deepen our involvement. Both before, as well as shortly after the release of the RCAP report, senior officers of the Canadian Churches met with the Commission Co-Chairs and representatives of several Aboriginal organizations to study and discuss the RCAP report. The Churches are now planning to organize and participate in regional gatherings of Church and Aboriginal leaders to undertake the same task. As well, through the ecumenical Aboriginal Rights Coalition (ARC), a kit is being produced that will enhance the ability of small groups to study and understand Aboriginal concerns in general and the RCAP's major recommendations, in particular.

Nonetheless, we write today to be better informed as to how the federal government plans to follow-up the RCAP recommendations. Although we realize that the report is lengthy, and the recommendations many, we would like to know your plans as to the following:

1) Is the Prime Minister planning to convene a meeting of the first ministers and Aboriginal leaders to discuss the RCAP report, as the Commissioners suggested, and when would this be?

2) Is the government prepared to establish an independent land claims commission?

3) Is the government prepared to consider granting some part of the substantial funding for Aboriginal housing, health and education as suggested in the final report?

We recommit ourselves and the Church to collaborate with others in the common task of creating the social awareness and change necessary to promote social justice for, and with, Aboriginal Peoples. Clearly, a long-term effort is called for. Nevertheless, we cannot delay this change process, or we risk losing the trust and support of many who see the presentation of the RCAP report as an historic opportunity for building a more just country, respectful of the major accomplishments and contributions of our Aboriginal sisters and brothers. The financial cost involved would not justify failure to take action. Otherwise, this would encourage Canadians to conclude that past injustices are impossible to confront, or that the future remains bleak for Aboriginal Peoples, all because we refuse to act today. We ask the government to clearly state its commitment to engage in a calendar of commitments to change, based on the appropriate recommendations of the RCAP report.

We look forward to your response concerning these important questions for all Canadians.

Sincerely,

Bishop François Thibodeau, C.J.M.
Bishop of Edmundston
Chairman,
Episcopal Commission for Social Affairs


For More Information Contact:
Deacon William Kokesch
Director, Communications Service

 

 

Last Updated on Thursday, August 17 2006