Conference Expression of Reconciliation

TRC meetingOn Thursday afternoon, September 19, 2013, Jenny Carter and Jim White made an "Expression of Reconciliation" at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission meeting in Vancouver. Below is the text of what they said.

"Commissioners, elders, survivors and families, friends: I am Jenny Carter, the President of BC Conference of The United Church of Canada, and with me is Jim White, a Co-Chair of our Native Ministries Council.

We recognize that we are meeting on the traditional territories of the Coast Salish nations and we are deeply grateful for their warm, open welcome and hospitality.

It is with humility but also gratitude that we offer this Expression of Reconciliation: humility because of the great harms the church has caused in the lives of individuals, families, and whole communities; but gratitude, too, that we have been given the opportunity by those we have hurt to stand here with you as those seeking to build new, healthy relationships. It is a rare and profound privilege you have invited us into.

The United Church has tried to take our responsibility for the residential schools seriously in a number of ways over the past years. We would like to take these few minutes to tell the story of one of them here in BC.

[Jim] In 2004 four of our leaders made a trip to four northern communities to hear how we might respond better to the legacy of the schools. What we heard was this: “As children we had to leave our communities to go to school; we now need someone to come to us who can offer professional counseling services.”

We were finally able to respond directly to that need by hiring a full-time person to provide professional psychotherapeutic services for survivors, their families and their communities. Irene Champagne began work in Bella Coola, Bella Bella, Klemtu and Oweekeno in 2010, visiting and staying in each community on a regular basis. Recently her contract was renewed for a further two years.

During these past three years Irene has worked with over 300 people. Some just needed to talk confidentially. Most asked for and received professional attention, usually as individuals, sometimes as families or in groups. When not in community Irene was available by phone and e-mail. At the heart of all her work is a profound respect for the people and their stories. And when Irene recently lost her father, those same people showed her the same deep respect and care.

[Jenny] We know our Mobile Counsellor work is just a small response compared to the harm caused by the residential schools. But we also know that reconciliation is not a one-time event or a program: it is a way of life. We have heard Jesus call us to that way of life. We are committed as a church to continuing this walk together.

Again, thank you for the privilege of listening to your stories and standing here with you. May the Creator bless you and this crucial work."

Placing a symbol of reconciliation