Reconciliation: Doing Our PartOthers, Forgiveness , Identity
Contributed by: Inner Hope Youth Ministries
Currently, around 90% of the core individuals Inner Hope serves are Indigenous. These youth and families have chosen to be a part of the Inner Hope community and have put a lot of trust in our staff and volunteers. Therefore, we feel a deep responsibility to be advocates of justice, doing the difficult work of acknowledging where we have been a participant in systems of oppression and being part of reconciliation in East Vancouver. God instructs us through scripture to stand up for the vulnerable.
As a Christian organization, we acknowledge the historic role that Canada’s religious institutions played in harming our Indigenous neighbours, and we take seriously our responsibility for healing damage and reforming harmful practices within the spiritual community of which we are a part. We seek an active role in reconciliation by responding directly to the Calls to Action from Canada’s Truth & Reconciliation Commission.
Isaiah 1:17b says,
Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.
Micah 6:8 says,
He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
As many of you know, colonialism in Canada has caused much destruction to Indigenous communities and in many cases led to inter-generational trauma. A few historical events in BC that have been deeply damaging are: the intentional spread of small pox in 1862 (which killed at least 50% of the West Coast Indigenous population), (1) the seizure of Indigenous lands and displacement and relocation onto reserves in the late 1800s (loss of land and resources needed to provide for families created a dependency on the Canadian government), (2) and the Indian residential school system which removed children from their parents and raised them in institutions that operated in BC from 1861– 1984. (3) The goal of these schools was to weaken family and cultural ties and indoctrinate the children into Canadian culture and Christianity. One of the greatest tragedies was the fact that most residential schools were run by churches whose leaders abused their power and misrepresented the Christian faith. This has led to widespread distrust of churches and Christians among our community.
The impacts of these atrocities, which has contributed to family and community breakdown, are hard to fathom. 4,252 out of 6,698 (63%) of children and youth in foster care in BC in 2018 were Indigenous (4) and 30 per cent of men and 47 per cent of women imprisoned in BC in 2016-17 were Indigenous. (5) To respond to the tragedy of residential schools and the destruction they have caused, Canada formed a Truth and Reconciliation Commission about 10 years ago. From 2009–2015 the commission held events across Canada and gathered over 6,750 statements from residential school survivors or members of their families.
In 2015 the Truth and Reconciliation Commission issued its final report, which included 94 Calls to Action in which it implored the Canadian government, along with all Canadian citizens, to acknowledge the past and pursue a new path together for the future. (6) Last year, Inner Hope’s staff chose Calls to Action numbers 1 and 30 to focus on and support.
Call to Action 1
We call upon the federal, provincial, territorial, and Aboriginal governments to commit to reducing the number of Aboriginal children in care by: providing adequate resources to enable Aboriginal communities and child-welfare organizations to keep Aboriginal families together where it is safe to do so, and to keep children in culturally appropriate environments, regardless of where they reside.
Inner Hope works hard to strengthen family relationships and help parents grow in their capacity to care for their children. In one situation we were able to advocate in the court system for an aunt to take over the care of her niece who was in foster care. Other ways we support this call:
- Inner Hope hosts holiday gatherings where extended families build memories and share holidays in a stable environment.
- The Boundless program has prioritized strengthening relationships with participants’ parents.
- The Home models healthy boundaries, routines and community with the goal that the residents would be able to break the cycle of abuse and instability and raise their own children.
- We are seeking ways to ensure The Home is a place where Indigenous residents feel supported and affirmed in their identity.
Call to Action 30
We call upon federal, provincial, and territorial governments to commit to eliminating the overrepresentation of Aboriginal people in custody over the next decade.
Approximately 75% of Inner Hope’s Indigenous participants have an immediate family member who has spent time in the correctional system. Many of the youth and young adults’ also have peers who are caught up in the system. Recently, a 19-year-old male, who was friends with a couple of the residents in The Home, was murdered by an 18-year-old known in the community. We are striving to see the youth and children we serve break this cycle. Some of the ways we are addressing this are to:
- Provide a community where youth and young adults can socialize and build relationships in a safe, supervised environment including weekend activities that give alternatives to youth being in settings where they are prone to make poor decisions.
- Provide healthy role models and adult mentors.
- Supporting youth to deal with their pain, learn how to control their anger and avoid a lifestyle of addiction are also critical in helping to prevent youth from getting caught up in a destructive lifestyle.
If you would like to learn how you can be part of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in Canada, two tools that may be helpful to you are a prayer guide created by the Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada, (7) and our list of 50 Acts of Reconciliation.