Rural Steps in Reconciliation

Photo by Rev. Marie-Louise Ternier

By Rev. Marie-Louise Ternier, All Saints Anglican Parish and Our Redeemer’s Lutheran Church, Watrous, SK

(This article was originally published in The Watrous Manitou)

Interest, understanding and care are slowly growing in the communities of Watrous and Manitou Beach on the importance to learn about the need for reconciliation with our Indigenous sisters and brothers in Canada.

When it comes to farming areas with little exposure and opportunities to engage with Indigenous people, our complex and painful history with the Indigenous population in our beautiful land is still in the beginning stages of being unpacked and articulated. Without learning and understanding what has happened in our shared history we risk falling into generalizations and stereotyping, judging and discriminating, while wondering while “they” keep having all these family, addictions and abuse problems and why “they can’t just get over it.”

Because of their direct involvement in executing government policy through the Residential Schools, the Christian churches have a special responsibility to develop initiatives and opportunities for local communities to foster education on the less glorious pages of our country’s checkered history with the original inhabitants of Canada.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report, published in 2015, contained several Calls to Action addressed to the churches. Paragraph 59 reads as follows: “We call upon church parties to the Settlement Agreement to develop ongoing education strategies to ensure that their respective congregations learn about their church’s role in colonization, the history and legacy of residential schools, and why apologies to former residential school students, their families, and communities were necessary.”

It is for this reason that All Saints Anglican Parish and Our Redeemer’s Lutheran Church in Watrous, SK, have hosted several educational opportunities this past year for local residents and farmers.

In partnership with the Manitou Beach Centennial Committee the four-part CBC series 8th Fire was shown (available online). This was followed by two more educational events in November 2019.

On Nov. 3 a public viewing was hosted at Our Redeemer’s Lutheran Church of the new documentary on the Doctrine of Discovery: Stolen Land, Strong Hearts (available online), attended by fourteen individuals from various backgrounds.

On Nov. 24 All Saints Anglican Parish in Watrous hosted a special event with Anglican Indigenous Bishop Chris Harper and his wife Tracy. Twenty-five people from near and far attended a lively afternoon presentation on Reconciliation, the TRC Calls to Action and the Treaties.

Each event on the subject generates hard learning, yet great appreciation was shared among all. Bishop Chris’ personal family history and his presenting style easily engaged the group; many went away with new insights and understandings about the complex relationship with our Indigenous fellow-Canadians. While the facts speak painful truths, there is inadvertently a unique liberating effect when insight and understanding begin to dawn in our mind and heart, replacing rash judgments and stereotypes. Bishop Chris left us with words of encouragement and hope that with a sincere desire to learn, a growing understanding for the past and mutual respect in the present we can learn to walk together into a better future for all Canadians.

The local churches hope to plan more events in 2020. If you wish to be part of these, or if you simply wish to speak in person about this subject, please contact Rev. Marie-Louise Ternier at