A Brief History of the Apology
August 2016 marks the 30th Anniversary of The United Church of Canada’s Apology to the Aboriginal communities for the role they played in the attempted assimilation of these peoples’ spiritual and cultural beliefs. As this date approaches, it is worth recalling the details of this significant occasion. At the 22nd General Council of The United Church of Canada meeting in 1966, the recommendation entitled “Rethinking the Relationship Between Christianity and Other Faiths, and the Uniqueness of Christianity” was presented. It suggested that The United Church of Canada begin to explore how their ministry could be more inclusive of other faiths. The United Church of Canada contemplated how to move forward and strengthen their relationship specifically with the First Nations population. Consequently, in 1982, the National Council for Native Ministries, which was headed by the Very Rev. Stan McKay, was created. A deeper discussion between the Native United Church community and the greater Church began.
During a General Council Executive meeting in 1985, a member of the National Native Council, Alberta Billy, unexpectedly stated that the Executive should offer an apology for their failure to acknowledge the spiritual beliefs of the First Nations peoples After much consideration, this request was granted at the 31st General Council meeting which was held on the Laurentian University campus in August 1986. First Nations Elders gathered, and in front of the Council, discussed how The United Church of Canada’s choice not to acknowledge their spiritual beliefs impacted their communities. After the presentations concluded, they left the hall and gathered in a parking lot where they awaited in a teepee for a response to their request for an apology. Church moderator Reverend Bob Smith led the Council down to the lot and formally issued the Apology on behalf of The United Church of Canada. While the Apology was received, it was not immediately accepted. Two years later, at the 32nd General Council meeting in Victoria, Edith Memnook, a representative of the All Native Circle Conference, acknowledged the Apology and the reconciliation process began.
Access the full text of the Apology here.