Commitment to Truth and Reconciliation
Since we opened our doors in 1987, Siloam Mission has focused on alleviating hardships for those affected by poverty and homelessness in this place we now call Winnipeg. We recognize that the trauma faced by Indigenous Peoples in Canada are rooted in colonial and racist attitudes which led to the creation of laws and systems designed to dispossess Indigenous Peoples from their land, water, family, culture, language, spirituality, and identity. While we know that the majority of the community we have served over the years is Indigenous, regrettably there have been times where we failed to recognize that good intentions which carry cultural ignorance were, and continue to be, re-traumatizing and oppressive to Indigenous Peoples.
As our organization’s role grew over 35 years, we acknowledge we were not always a strong ally to the Original Peoples of this land. Despite our belief in offering Christ’s compassionate love to all who need support, healing and recovery, there have been occasions where we failed to come alongside Indigenous Peoples as the Christian faith would instruct us. Faith-based entities have at times misused the Christian faith as an instrument of moral superiority instead of an extension of unconditional love and friendship, and regrettably some of Siloam’s actions have been experienced in this way. We acknowledge we did not appreciate the seriousness of the issues and tensions perceived between our commitment to our Christian identity and our commitment to serve all members in our community, in particular those who are Indigenous.
In recent years, Siloam Mission underwent a process of seeking Indigenous perspectives in order to learn and walk through truth that was both painful and challenging. We are deeply grateful to those who shared and continue to share their wisdom and guidance about what was and should become. We recognize that cultural bias supported by colonial attitudes and structures failed to recognize the deep faith and centrality of the Creator in the Indigenous worldview, which was present long before non-Indigenous peoples arrived on these lands. We acknowledge there has been a long history of harms and injustice towards Indigenous people that Siloam did not do enough to disrupt, and we are steadfast on the path ahead in seeking reconciliation and right relations.
Words alone will not undo harm. Rather, we must act – not in isolation, but in friendship, partnership and with guidance from Indigenous Peoples. As such, we are pleased to respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) Call to Action #48 which asks faith groups and interfaith social justice groups in Canada to “formally adopt and comply with the principles, norms, and standards of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a framework for reconciliation,” as well as Call to Action #49 which calls on faith groups to “repudiate concepts used to justify European sovereignty over Indigenous lands and peoples, such as the Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius.”
Healing and reconciliation are the moral responsibility of all, which for Siloam Mission is rooted in Christ’s call to repentance, reconciliation, and peace with all people. It is our response-ability to understand and acknowledge the realities and histories of the Original Peoples of this land and actively work towards establishing and maintaining right relations. We know this requires guidance from Indigenous Peoples as part of an on-going dialogue.
We make the following statements:
- We acknowledge that the application of the Doctrine of Discovery, terra nullius, and other supremist doctrines have been used to cause harm or justify non-Indigenous moral, jurisdictional and doctrinal sovereignty over Indigenous peoples. We join our voices with other faith-based entities who have responded to the TRC’s Call to Action 49 in rejecting these doctrines, as well as any concept that advocates superiority of peoples or individuals on the basis of national origins or racial, religious, ethnic or cultural difference.
- We have incorporated the principles of Truth and Reconciliation into Siloam Mission’s Mission, Vision and Values, working to become strong advocates for healing, justice and reconciliation and to disrupt oppressive spaces and systems that have contributed towards Indigenous houselessness.
- We will seek and respect the guidance of Indigenous Knowledge Keepers, advisors, staff and community to ensure our spaces, policies, programs and practices are not harmful to the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual outcomes of Indigenous Peoples (CTA 92.1).
- We will adopt practices that ensure Indigenous Peoples have equitable access to jobs, training and educational opportunities (CTA 92.2).
- We recognize the value of Indigenous healing practices and will make Elder supports available whenever possible to do so (CTA 22).
- We recommit ourselves to historically-informed education and action on issues related to addressing wrongs in social, health and economic outcomes that exist between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians (CTA 1.3; 23.3; 92.3).
- We recommit ourselves to respect the differences and commonalities in spiritual journeys and acknowledge there is much for non-Indigenous Peoples to learn about the Creator’s love and covenant relationship with Indigenous Peoples (CTA 48.2).
This statement was committed to in October 2022 as part of an on-going journey that will be updated and recommitted to on an annual basis.
To read the press release on our Commitment to Truth and Reconciliation, click here.